Imaging Post-Traumatic Headache

Jill C. Rau, Gina M. Dumkrieger, Catherine D. Chong, Todd J. Schwedt

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Purpose of Review: Headache is a frequent and debilitating symptom after mild traumatic brain injury, yet little is known about its pathophysiology and most effective treatments. The goal of this review is to summarize findings from imaging studies used during the clinical evaluation and research investigation of post-traumatic headache (PTH). Recent Findings: There are no published recommendations or guidelines for when to acquire imaging studies of the head or neck in patients with PTH. Clinical acumen is required to determine if imaging is needed to assess for a secondary cause of headache which may have been precipitated or unmasked by the trauma. Several guidelines for when to image the patient with mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI) in the emergency setting consider headache among the deciding factors. In the research arena, imaging techniques including proton spectroscopy magnetic resonance imaging, diffusion tensor imaging, magnetic resonance morphometry, and functional neck x-rays have been employed with the goal of identifying diagnostic and prognostic factors for PTH and to help understand its underlying pathophysiologic mechanisms. Results indicate that changes in regional cortical thickness and damage to specific white matter tracts warrant further research. Future research should interrogate whether these imaging findings contribute to the classification and prognosis of PTH. Summary: Current research provides evidence that imaging findings associated with PTH may be distinct from those attributable to mTBI. A variety of imaging techniques have potential to further our understanding of the pathophysiologic processes underlying PTH as well as to provide diagnostic and prognostic indicators. However, considerable work must be undertaken for this to be realized.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number64
JournalCurrent pain and headache reports
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2018


  • Concussion
  • Diffusion tensor imaging
  • Magnetic resonance imaging
  • Magnetic resonance spectroscopy
  • Mild traumatic brain injury
  • Post-traumatic headache

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine


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