Headache in Intracranial and Cervical Artery Dissections

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Dissection refers to a tear in the wall of an artery, with the two main types being intracranial or extracranial. Dissections tend to occur most commonly in the young, sometimes secondary to trauma involving the neck. To confirm a dissection, some type of vessel imaging is necessary, including magnetic resonance angiography (MRA), computed tomography angiography (CTA), or angiography. The most common presentation of a dissection (especially extracranial) is pain, usually head and neck pain along with a Horner’s syndrome. Patients may also present with ischemic symptoms, including transient ischemic attack (TIA) or stroke, which may also be a complication of a dissection. Although headache is a common presentation, there is little research into phenotype or long-term outcomes. There are a number of case reports detailing the phenotypes of headaches that may be present in dissection, including a migraine-like or hemicrania-like headache. Dissections are usually treated with some type of anti-platelet or anti-coagulation, although there are only a few randomized controlled trials. In a new acute headache, dissection is an important diagnosis to keep in mind.

Original languageEnglish
Article number8
Pages (from-to)1-5
Number of pages5
JournalCurrent Pain and Headache Reports
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2016


  • Carotid
  • Cervical
  • Dissection
  • Extracranial
  • Headache
  • Horner’s
  • Intracranial
  • Tear
  • Vertebral


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