Safety of select headache medications in patients with cerebral and spinal cavernous malformations

Kelly D. Flemming, Chia Chun Chiang, Robert D. Brown, Giuseppe Lanzino

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Patients with cerebral or spinal cavernous malformations (CM) and a primary headache disorder are often limited in medication options due to concern for bleeding risk. Methods: From a prospective cohort of CM patients (2015–2020), demographics, mode of clinical presentation, and radiographic data were collected. Follow up of patients was performed with electronic medical record review, in person visits and/or written surveys. Select medication use was ascertained from the time of the CM diagnosis to a censor date of first prospective symptomatic hemorrhage, complete surgical excision of sporadic form CM, or death. The influence of non-aspirin NSAID (NA-NSAID), triptan, or OnabotulinumtoxinA on prospective hemorrhage risk was assessed. Results: As of August 20, 2020, 329 patients with spinal or cerebral CM (58% female; 20.1% familial; 42.2% initial presentation due to hemorrhage; 27.4% brainstem) were included. During a follow-up of 1799.9 patient years, 92 prospective hemorrhages occurred. Use of NA-NSAIDs, triptans, and OnabotulinumtoxinA after the diagnosis of CM was unassociated with an increased risk of prospective hemorrhage. Conclusions: Use of triptans and NA-NSAIDs, does not precipitate CM hemorrhage. Similarly, we did not find that OnabotulinumtoxinA precipitated CM hemorrhage in a limited number of patients at doses <200 units per session.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCephalalgia Reports
StatePublished - Nov 29 2021


  • OnabotulinumtoxinA
  • beta-blocker
  • cavernous angioma
  • headache
  • migraine
  • propranolol
  • triptan

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology


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