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Papers of the Week

Papers: 23 Nov 2019 - 29 Nov 2019



Handb Clin Neurol


Headache in the elderly.


Kaniecki RG, Levin AD
Handb Clin Neurol. 2019; 167:511-528.
PMID: 31753152.


Headache is the most common neurologic symptom and affects nearly half the world's population at any given time. Although the prevalence declines with age, headache remains a common neurologic complaint among elderly populations. Headaches can be divided into primary and secondary causes. Primary headaches comprise about two-thirds of headaches among the elderly. They are defined by clinical criteria and are diagnosed based on symptom pattern and exclusion of secondary causes. Primary headaches include migraine, tension-type, trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias, and hypnic headache. Secondary headaches are defined by their suspected etiology. A higher index of suspicion for a secondary headache disorder is warranted in older patients with new-onset headache. They are roughly 12 times more likely to have serious underlying causes and, frequently, have different symptomatic presentations compared to younger adults. Various imaging and laboratory evaluations are indicated in the presence of any "red flag" signs or symptoms. Head CT is the procedure of choice for acute headache presentations, and brain MRI for those with chronic headache complaints. Management of headache in elderly populations can be challenging due to the presence of multiple medical comorbidities, polypharmacy, and differences in drug metabolism and clearance.