The aims of this study were to describe the etiologies of acute headache presenting to the pediatric emergency department, determine their clinical characteristics, the prevalence of red flag findings and neuroimaging and identify predictors of headaches because of serious intracranial diseases.
Materials and Methods:
Patients from 2 to 18 years of age who visited pediatric emergency department with a chief complaint of headache between January 1, 2016 and August 31, 2020 were retrospectively evaluated.
The mean age of the 558 patients included in the study was 11.17±3.78 years, and 290 (52%) were female. The most common cause of acute headache was head and neck area infections (except central nervous system infections) in 355 (63.6%) patients. Forty patients (7.2%) had a headache because of serious intracranial diseases. According to binary logistic regression analysis, the findings that predicted a serious intracranial diseases were abnormal neurological physical examination [odds ratio (OR): 187.57; 95% confidence interval (CI): 32.67-1076.64], recent onset or suddenly severe headache (OR: 14.41; 95% CI: 3.14-65.91), and vomiting (OR: 9.42; 95% CI: 1.90-46.63). Neuroimaging was performed in 63 (11.3%) patients, and 7 (1.25%) had a pathology requiring emergency treatment.
The majority of acute headaches were evaluated as secondary headache. The most common cause of acute headache was head and neck area infections. Abnormal neurological physical examination, recent onset or suddenly severe headache, and vomiting were the most useful red flags for predicting serious intracranial diseases. The requirement for neuroimaging should be evaluated individually for each patient.