To explore naturally occurring clinical subgroups of post-traumatic headache.
Persistent post-traumatic headache (PTH) is defined as a headache developing within 7 days of an injury that lasts for greater than 3 months. However, there is no evidence available from the International Classification of Headache Disorders (ICHD) based classification between persistent and acute PTH based on clinical phenotypes.
We conducted a retrospective study using the Stanford Research Repository Cohort Discovery Tool. We reviewed 500 electronic patient charts between January 2015 to September 2019 using inclusion criteria of adults older than 18 years with a diagnosis of PTH. The following variables were extracted from each patient’s chart: diagnosis of PTH as dependent variable, and predictor variables as age, sex, history of migraine, loss of consciousness during head injury, pre-existing psychological history, duration of PTH and new PTH-associated comorbidities (e.g. new onset vertigo, post-traumatic stress disorder). Logistic regression was employed to identify clinical phenotypes predicting persistent PTH. All predictor variables were tested in one block to determine their predictive capacity while controlling for other predictors in the model. Two-step cluster analysis was conducted to identify naturally occurring PTH subgroups.
A total of 300 patients were included (150 acute, 150 persistent PTH) with a median age of 47 years (IQR 31, 59) and female: male ratio of 2.7:1. Two hundred patients were excluded due to misdiagnoses. Pre-existing psychological history (standardized beta 0.16), history of migraine (0.20), new PTH-associated comorbidities (0.23) and medication overuse (0.37) statistically significantly predicted the presence of persistent PTH (p <  0.0001). Clustering analysis revealed PTH subgrouping comparable to ICHD-based classification: 140 patients in Cluster 1 (76% persistent PTH) and 160 patients in Cluster 2 (83% acute PTH). Four distinct clusters were found within persistent PTH.
Pre-existing psychological history, history of migraine, new PTH-associated comorbidities and medication overuse predicted the occurrence of persistent PTH as well as two naturally occurring PTH clusters correlating to acute and persistent PTH. Management emphasis should focus on these phenotypes.