BackgroundPreschool age (i.e. children under six years of age) represents a red flag for requiring neuroimaging to exclude secondary potentially urgent intracranial conditions (PUIC) in patients with acute headache. We investigated the clinical characteristics of preschoolers with headache to identify the features associated with a greater risk of secondary "dangerous" headache. MethodsWe performed a multicenter exploratory retrospective study in Italy from January 2017 to December 2018. Preschoolers with new-onset non-traumatic headache admitted to emergency department were included and were subsequently divided into two groups: hospitalized and discharged. Among hospitalized patients, we investigated the characteristics linked to potentially urgent intracranial conditions. ResultsWe included 1455 preschoolers with acute headache. Vomiting, ocular motility disorders, ataxia, presence of neurological symptoms and signs, torticollis and nocturnal awakening were significantly associated to hospitalization. Among the 95 hospitalized patients, 34 (2.3%) had potentially urgent intracranial conditions and more frequently they had neurological symptoms and signs, papilledema, ataxia, cranial nerves paralysis, nocturnal awakening and vomiting. Nevertheless, on multivariable logistic regression analysis, we found that only ataxia and vomiting were associated with potentially urgent intracranial conditions. ConclusionOur study identified clinical features that should be carefully evaluated in the emergency department in order to obtain a prompt diagnosis and treatment of potentially urgent intracranial conditions. The prevalence of potentially urgent intracranial conditions was low in the emergency department, which may suggest that age under six should not be considered an important risk factor for malignant causes as previously thought.
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