The role of the otolaryngologist in the evaluation and management of headaches

Shirley Hu, Samuel Helman, Peter Filip, Jonathan Cabin, Patrick Colley

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

9 Scopus citations


Background: Headaches are commonly evaluated in otolaryngology and often represent a diagnostic dilemma. This review addresses rhinogenic headache as well as trigeminal neuralgia and migraine, both of which can masquerade as sinus headache and whose management increasingly involves otolaryngology intervention. Discussion considers diagnostic criteria and novel therapies and derives an algorithm for clinical decision-making. Data sources: OVID MEDLINE, Cochrane Library, and Google Scholar databases. Methods: A literature search was performed to identify relevant articles published in the past 10 years addressing the diagnosis and management of rhinogenic headache, trigeminal neuralgia and/or migraine. Findings: Rhinogenic headache: Identification of the specific cause must be achieved before treatment. No studies have mentioned the effect of certain therapies on the amelioration of headache. New techniques of balloon dilation for sinusitis are controversial, and their use remains contingent on surgeon preference. Removal of mucosal contact points has been shown to benefit quality of life in patients with contact point headache. Trigeminal neuralgia: Microvascular decompression is considered the gold standard for treatment, but percutaneous therapies can be effective for achieving pain control. Migraine: Patients who report amelioration of symptoms after targeted botulinum toxin injection may benefit from definitive decompression or nerve avulsion. Patients with mucosal contact points may have less favorable outcomes with migraine surgery if they are not simultaneously addressed. Conclusions: A comprehensive understanding of the diagnostic workup and therapeutic options available for common headache etiologies is key to the management of a patient presenting with headache attributed to a rhinogenic cause.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)115-120
Number of pages6
JournalAmerican Journal of Otolaryngology - Head and Neck Medicine and Surgery
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Contact point
  • Headache
  • Migraine
  • Rhinogenic
  • Sinusitis
  • Trigeminal neuralgia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Otorhinolaryngology


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