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"Pre-attack signs and symptoms in cluster headache: Characteristics and time profile"

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Introduction:   In contrast to the premonitory phase of migraine, little is known about the pre-attack (prodromal) phase of a cluster headache. We aimed to describe the nature, prevalence, and duration of pre-attack symptoms in cluster headache. Methods Eighty patients with episodic cluster headache or chronic cluster headache, according to ICHD-3 beta criteria, were invited to participate. In this observational study, patients underwent a semi-structured interview where they were asked about the presence of 31 symptoms/signs in relation to a typical cluster headache attack. Symptoms included previously reported cluster headache pre-attack symptoms, premonitory migraine symptoms and accompanying symptoms of migraine and cluster headache. Results Pre-attack symptoms were reported by 83.3% of patients, with an average of 4.25 (SD 3.9) per patient. Local and painful symptoms, occurring with a median of 10 minutes before attack, were reported by 70%. Local and painless symptoms and signs, occurring with a median of 10 minutes before attack, were reported by 43.8% and general symptoms, occurring with a median of 20 minutes before attack, were reported by 62.5% of patients. Apart from a dull/aching sensation in the attack area being significantly ( p < 0.05) more frequent among men and episodic patients, compared with women and chronic patients respectively, no other differences in the prevalence of pre-attack symptoms were identified between groups. Conclusion Pre-attack symptoms are frequent in cluster headache. Since the origin of cluster headache attacks is still unresolved, studies of pre-attack symptoms could contribute to the understanding of cluster headache pathophysiology. Furthermore, identification and recognition of pre-attack symptoms could potentially allow earlier abortive treatment.


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