Most patients presenting to the ED with a headache have a simple primary headache: tension, migraine, or cluster. Detecting the "other" etiolgies for headache, which can result in neurologic devastation or death, is often a diagnostic challenge. He we give some quick hits for one of the "can't miss" headaches, how it presents, and how to diagnose it.
11-year-old boy previously health who presents with testicular pain. He had sudden onset of pain that started 6 hours ago. He rates it 8/10, states it has been constant since then and is non-radiating. He denies dysuria and similar pain in the past. He further denies testicular trauma and recent fevers. He had one episode of emesis while in the waiting room.
A 34 yo female with a history of trigeminal neuralgia presented to the Emergency Department with a chief complaint of 5 days of severe, worsening paroxysms of pain in the left trigeminal nerve distribution. The pain was refractory to carbamazepine and gabapentin. Neurology was consulted and an unconventional therapy was recommended.
A 24 year old female presents to the ED complaining of a worsening headache after a lumbar puncture performed in the ED 2 days prior which diagnosed idiopathic intracranial hypertension. "No problem!" you think. Either this is just a post LP headache or possibly the patient needs more CSF drained to improve her headache. LP is a very safe procedure with minimal risk after all! Right?
A 23 yo male with a hx of insulin dependent diabetes and recurrent admissions for DKA presents to the ED with complaints of diffuse body aches. He is acutely ill appearing, agitated, and combative with staff, demanding pain medication, entering other patients rooms, and screaming. Realizing that this patient is severely ill, you wonder how you will de-escalate or sedate this patient safely to enable life-saving care to be rendered.....
A 63 yo male presents complaining of severe pain to the right shoulder. He has markedly restricted range of motion in the shoulder, without any overlying erythema, edema, or warmth. You take a cursory glance at the xray as you gather supplies to perform an arthrocentesis for suspected septic arthritis...