Evaluation of headache severity after aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage

Rachel Swope, Kelly Glover, Yevgeniya Gokun, Justin F. Fraser, Aaron M. Cook

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Objective The most common complaint from patients after subarachnoid hemorrhage (SAH) is headache. The headache appears to be persistent and often severe. Although this problem is pervasive in the care of SAH patients, very little data have been published to describe the nature and severity of the headache nor is there evidence-based guidance on the appropriate treatment of headache due to SAH.

Methods This was a retrospective medical record review of adults with aneurysmal SAH. Basic demographics, along with pain scores and analgesic medication administration, were collected. Patients with early vasospasm (within 7 days of ictus) were compared with patients with no vasospasm.

Results The patient population was characteristic of the typical SAH population. Approximately 31.5% of patients exhibited early vasospasm. These patients had higher pain scores (median 8/10) than did patients without vasospasm (median 6/10) and required more analgesics such as acetaminophen/butalbital/caffeine. Treatment success with any analgesic used in this population was minimal. The pain scores associated with headache increased over the first 7 days in both groups.

Conclusions Headache after SAH is persistent and treatment refractory. There may be an association with development of vasospasm and worsening of headache. Novel treatment strategies to attenuate headache in this population are needed.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-122
Number of pages4
JournalInterdisciplinary Neurosurgery: Advanced Techniques and Case Management
Issue number4
StatePublished - Nov 2014

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2014 Published by Elsevier B.V.


  • Analgesia
  • Caffeine
  • Headache
  • Pain
  • Stroke
  • Vasospasm

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Clinical Neurology


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