Diagnosing Secondary and Primary Headache Disorders

Matthew S. Robbins, David W. Dodick

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


PURPOSE OF REVIEW This article provides a systematic diagnostic approach to the patient with headache. RECENT FINDINGS The vast majority of patients presenting with headache in clinical practice have a primary headache disorder. The most common primary headache disorder in clinical practice is overwhelmingly migraine. Unfortunately, a substantial proportion of patients with migraine do not receive an accurate diagnosis. In addition, the clinical features of migraine overlap with secondary causes of headache, making a careful history and deliberative evaluation for warning symptoms or signs of a secondary headache disorder of paramount importance. SUMMARY The approach to the patient with headache requires knowledge of the diagnostic criteria for primary headache disorders, recognition of the importance of a systematic evaluation for red flags associated with secondary headache disorders, and awareness of the pearls and pitfalls encountered in the diagnostic evaluation of a patient with headache.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)572-585
Number of pages14
JournalCONTINUUM Lifelong Learning in Neurology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2021

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Genetics(clinical)


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