Headache After Traumatic Brain Injury

Individuals with headache after traumatic brain injury (TBI) are given care in a wide variety of clinical locations by physicians trained in multiple specialties. This study aimed to understand current practice patterns and perceptions of treatment issues among clinicians managing headache following TBI. A national survey of current clinical practice using a 20-item questionnaire developed by the authors was conducted. Survey respondents were members of the Central Nervous System Council list survey of the American Academy of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation (N= 1782) and the American Headache Society membership (N= 1260). The survey was sent electronically to potential participants and was followed by 2 biweekly reminders. The survey inquired as to the physicians’ clinical setting; their use of headache classification systems, headache diaries, checklists, and diagnostic procedures; the pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic treatments prescribed; and headache chronicity and associated symptoms and disorders among their patients with TBI. Completed surveys were received from 193 respondents. The use of standardized classification systems and checklists was frequently reported. Respondents used nonpharmacologic and pharmacologic treatment approaches with similar frequency and modest perceived success rates. A high frequency of headache-associated new sleep and mood disorders was reported. When response differences occurred between practice settings, they reflected a focus on headache diagnosis, classification, and pharmacologic treatment among neurology and specialty headache clinics, whereas a nonpharmacologic approach to management among TBI specialty and general rehabilitation clinicians was reported more often.

Management strategies for treating headache after TBI vary widely among general and specialty clinical practices. This indicates that additional research is required that would lead to an increase in the use of established headache classification and the development of standardized management approaches so that all practitioners who care for patients following TBI can provide consistent effective care.