Annals of African Medicine

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Should non acute and recurrent headaches have neuroimaging before review by a Neurologist?- A review in a Southern Nigerian Tertiary Hospital

FA Imarhiagbe, E Ogbeide


Background: Headache is a common complaint in general practice and it is known that most headaches are primary and that the yield of neuroimaging like cranial computed tomography (CT) in headache is generally low. In this study, we were able to demonstrate that the yield of  neuroimaging in non-acute and recurrent headache could be higher if cases are reviewed first by a specialist Neurologist before cranial CT.
Method: Seventy-four cases that were referred to the specialist neurology clinic with complaints of chronic and recurrent headaches without focal neurological defi cit that had CT scan were reviewed consecutively using the
short form of the International Classification of Headache Disorders second edition (ICHD 2) criteria after their demographics of age, sex were  captured, to find out the proportion and characteristics of study cases that had identifiable cranial lesions on cranial CT scan. All cases were reviewed by a specialist Neurologist before CT scan and all CT fi lms were reviewed by a specialist Radiologist. Age, sex and the distribution of CT findings were described from a frequency table and mean age of study cases with and without identifiable lesions on CT were compared with t-test for any signifi cant difference and the effect of gender on the presence of identifiable lesions was tested with chi square and the agreement between clinical and CT diagnoses were tested on kappa statistics.
Results: (1) Mean age of cases was 37.55 (22.06) years. (2) No signifi cant effect of gender was found on intracranial lesions (P = 0.345). (3) Intracranial lesions were found in 47.3% of cases and the mean age was higher compared to cases with normal fi ndings on cranial CT (P = 0.019). (4) Clinical and CT diagnoses agreed in 56.2% of the cases (P = 0.000).
Conclusion: The high yield of intracranial lesions may be accounted for by the method of selection of cases for cranial CT.
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