Headache

Headache Examination

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Headache Examination

  • General
  1. Neurologic deficit suggests Organic Headache
  2. Organic Headache is unlikely without neurologic deficit
  • Exam
  • Key Neurologic Assessment
  1. Complete Neurologic Examination
    1. Motor Exam (Hemiparesis)
    2. Sensory Exam (especially Trigeminal Nerve sensation)
    3. Cranial Nerve exam
    4. Deep Tendon Reflexes
    5. Coordination and gait (e.g. Ataxia)
    6. Signs of Meningeal Irritation
      1. Nuchal Rigidity on Passive neck flexion
  2. Altered Level of Consciousness
    1. Causes of Focal neurologic deficits
      1. Cerebrovascular Accident
    2. Causes of Non-focal neurologic deficits
      1. Meningitis
      2. Encephalitis
      3. Subarachnoid Hemorrhage
      4. Intracranial Hypertension
      5. Anoxia
  • Exam
  • Other key points
  1. Vascular examination
    1. Carotid Bruit
    2. Temporal artery bruit or pain
  2. Eye Examination
    1. Pupil reaction
    2. Visual fields
    3. Abnormal eye movements (e.g. Nystagmus)
    4. Funduscopic Examination for Papilledema
  3. Skin Findings suggestive of intracranial neoplasm
    1. Neurofibromatosis
    2. Tuberous Sclerosis
  4. Vital Signs
    1. Head Circumference in children
    2. Tachycardia
      1. Intracranial lesion (see list below)
    3. Hypertension
      1. Hypertensive Headache
      2. Intracranial Lesion
        1. Hematoma
        2. Subarachnoid Hemorrhage
    4. Fever
      1. Meningitis
      2. Encephalitis
      3. Viral Syndrome
      4. Temporal Arteritis
      5. Acute Sinusitis
  • References
  1. Cutrer in Goldman (2000) Cecil Medicine, p. 2066
  2. Duman in Friedman (1991) Medical Diagnosis, p. 392-3
  3. Henry in Marx (2002) Rosen's Emergency Medicine, p. 152
  4. Pruitt in Goroll (2000) Primary Care Medicine, p. 931-9