Conference Coverage

Headache may be a significant outcome of pediatric hemispherectomy



Most children who undergo hemispherectomy for severe, intractable epilepsy report headaches after the procedure, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the Child Neurology Society. Patients with headache before hemispherectomy may be at risk of increased headache frequency after the procedure. The most common type of headache reported is nonmigrainous headache.

“We recommend that hemispherectomy patients be evaluated and followed closely postoperatively and questioned regarding the presence of headache,” said William Bingaman, MD, vice-chair of the neurological institute and head of the section of epilepsy surgery at the Cleveland Clinic, and colleagues. “Patients should be assessed and treated quickly to decrease prolonged pain and suffering and increase function.”

The two main types of hemispherectomy are anatomical and functional. Anatomical hemispherectomy entails the removal of a large amount of brain mass. Functional hemispherectomy entails the removal of a smaller amount of brain mass, as well as the disconnection of the brain’s hemispheres. Most patients are seizure free or have reduced seizure frequency after hemispherectomy. Other common postoperative outcomes include changes in behavior, cognition, motor function, and speech. Many studies have explored these outcomes, but few have examined the frequency of postoperative headache in children who undergo hemispherectomy.

Dr. Bingaman and colleagues retrospectively reviewed the charts of 74 children who underwent hemispherectomy at the Cleveland Clinic during the previous 5 years. They excluded 14 patients who were too young to respond for the analysis. The investigators sent the remaining 60 patients an informative letter and followed up with a 10-minute phone questionnaire about patients’ postoperative headache symptoms.

Twenty-two (36.7%) eligible patients completed the questionnaire. Thirty-eight patients could not be reached or declined to participate. Half of the 22 respondents were male. Participants’ median age at surgery was 6.5 years. The most common types of hemispherectomy were left functional (50%) and right functional (31.8%).

Nine (39.1%) of the 22 respondents had headache before surgery, and seven (31.8%) reported a family history of headache. In all, 19 (86.4%) patients had headache after surgery, and 10 (45.5%) had headaches that began after the surgery. Of the nine patients with preoperative headache, six (66.6%) had an increase in headache frequency after surgery, two (22.2%) reported no change, and one (11.1%) had decreased headache frequency. The most common type of headache reported was tension-type headache, and migraine was the second most common.

“The cause of any posthemispherectomy headache has thus far only been attributed to hydrocephalus,” wrote Dr. Bingaman and colleagues. “The tendency of headache to worsen following stresses such as illness, stroke, trauma, etc. has been studied extensively. The pathophysiology of posthemispherectomy headache can be investigated further by classifying hemispherectomy as a type of trauma or injury, which would explain the development of postoperative headache. Previous studies on posttraumatic headache have ascribed these headaches to neuroinflammation following the injury. Additionally, posthemispherectomy headache could also be due to the buildup of debris and fluid following the operation. Future hemispherectomy patients should be treated prophylactically for headache.”

The authors did not report funding for their study or declare any disclosures.

SOURCE: Pandit I et al. CNS 2019. Abstract 99.

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