Occipital neuralgia associates with high cervical spinal cord lesions in idiopathic inflammatory demyelinating disease

Narayan R. Kissoon, James Watson, Christopher J. Boes, Orhun H Kantarci

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Background: The association of trigeminal neuralgia with pontine lesions has been well documented in multiple sclerosis, and we tested the hypothesis that occipital neuralgia in multiple sclerosis is associated with high cervical spinal cord lesions. Methods: We retrospectively reviewed the records of 29 patients diagnosed with both occipital neuralgia and demyelinating disease by a neurologist from January 2001 to December 2014. We collected data on demographics, clinical findings, presence of C2-3 demyelinating lesions, and treatment responses. Results: The patients with both occipital neuralgia and multiple sclerosis were typically female (76%) and had a later onset (age > 40) of occipital neuralgia (72%). Eighteen patients (64%) had the presence of C2-3 lesions and the majority had unilateral symptoms (83%) or episodic pain (78%). All patients with documented sensory loss (3/3) had C2-3 lesions. Most patients with progressive multiple sclerosis (6/8) had C2-3 lesions. Of the eight patients with C2-3 lesions and imaging at onset of occipital neuralgia, five (62.5%) had evidence of active demyelination. None of the patients with progressive multiple sclerosis (3/3) responded to occipital nerve blocks or high dose intravenous steroids, whereas all of the other phenotypes with long term follow-up (eight patients) had good responses. Conclusions: A cervical spine MRI should be considered in all patients presenting with occipital neuralgia. In patients with multiple sclerosis, clinical features in occipital neuralgia that were predictive of the presence of a C2-3 lesion were unilateral episodic symptoms, sensory loss, later onset of occipital neuralgia, and progressive multiple sclerosis phenotype. Clinical phenotype predicted response to treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCephalalgia
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - Jan 1 2018

Keywords

  • demyelinating disease
  • Headache
  • multiple sclerosis
  • neuropathic pain
  • occipital neuralgia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology

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