Headache in beta-thalassemia: An Italian multicenter clinical, conventional MRI and MR-angiography case-control study

Immacolata Tartaglione, Martina Caiazza, Rosanna Di Concilio, Angela Ciancio, Elisa De Michele, Caterina Maietta, Maria Sole Valentino, Camilla Russo, Domenico Roberti, Maddalena Casale, Andrea Elefante, Gianluca Femina, Fabrizio Esposito, Sara Ponticorvo, Andrea G. Russo, Antonietta Canna, Mario Ermani, Mario Cirillo, Silverio Perrotta, Renzo Manara

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Objectives: A strikingly increased headache prevalence was recently noted in Sri Lankan beta-thalassemia patients, raising several concerns regarding long-term neurological involvement in this condition. Methods: We interviewed on headache occurrence and characteristics 102 Italian beta-thalassemia patients and 129 healthy controls. 3T-MRI, MR-angiography, MR-venography, cognitive and psychiatric findings were considered. Results: Headache was diagnosed in 39/102 (38.2%) beta-thalassemia patients without significant phenotype-related differences and in 51/129 (39.5%) controls. Patients and controls did not differ significantly regarding episode number (5.9 ± 6.2 vs 5.4 ± 4.4 days/month), subjective severity-score (6.8 ± 1.4 vs 7.1 ± 1.3), age-at-onset (24.3 ± 13.0 vs 19.5 ± 9.6 years) and headache-subtype rate. No main demographic, clinical or laboratory data was associated with headache but female gender. Headache was not associated with white matter lesions (number or maximal diameter), intracranial aneurysms, intracranial artery stenoses or venous sinus thrombosis. Cognitive and psychiatric evaluations were worse in beta-thalassemia, however, headache did not correlate with full-scale Intelligence Quotient (75.4 ± 18.0 vs 76.7 ± 15.3, with and without headache, respectively) or Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale scores (29.1 ± 2.7 vs 28.5 ± 3.4). Conclusions: Among Italian beta-thalassemia patients, headache does not seem to be more common or severe than in the general population. In addition, patients with headache do not seem to present increased conventional MRI, MR-angiography and cognitive/psychiatric changes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102403
JournalBlood Cells, Molecules, and Diseases
StatePublished - Mar 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

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© 2019


  • Anemia
  • Brain MRI
  • MR-angiography
  • Transfusions


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