New-Onset Headache in Patients With Autoimmune Encephalitis Is Associated With anti-NMDA-Receptor Antibodies.

Schankin, Christoph; Kästele, Fabian; Gerdes, Lisa Ann; Winkler, Tobias; Csanadi, Endy; Högen, Tobias; Pellkofer, Hannah; Paulus, Walter; Kümpfel, Tania; Straube, Andreas (2016). New-Onset Headache in Patients With Autoimmune Encephalitis Is Associated With anti-NMDA-Receptor Antibodies. Headache, 56(6), pp. 995-1003. Wiley-Blackwell 10.1111/head.12853

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OBJECTIVE We tested the hypotheses (i) that autoimmune encephalitis is associated with new-onset headache, and (ii) that the occurrence of headache is associated with the presence of anti-N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA)-receptor antibodies. BACKGROUND Autoimmune encephalitis presents with cognitive dysfunction as well as neuro-psychiatric symptoms. Its pathophysiology might involve antibody-mediated dysfunction of the glutamatergic system as indicated by the presence of anti-NMDA-receptor antibodies in some patients. METHODS In this cross-sectional study, patients with autoimmune encephalitis were assessed with a standardized interview for previous headache and headache associated with autoimmune encephalitis. Headache was classified according to the International Classification of Headache Disorders, second edition. Clinical and paraclinical findings were correlated with the occurrence of headache. RESULTS Of 40 patients with autoimmune encephalitis, 19 did not have a history of headache. Of those, nine suffered from encephalitis-associated headache. Seven of these nine had anti-NMDA-receptor antibodies in contrast to only two among the remaining 10 patients without new-onset headache (P = .023, odds ratio: 14, 95% confidence interval: 1.5; 127). In most patients headache occurred in attacks on more than 15 days/month, was severe, and of short duration (less than 4 hours). International Headache Society criteria for migraine were met in three patients. CONCLUSIONS New-onset headache is a relevant symptom in patients with autoimmune encephalitis who have no history of previous headache, especially in the subgroup with anti-NMDA-receptor antibodies. This indicates a thorough investigation for secondary headaches including anti-NMDA-R antibodies for patients with new-onset headache and neuropsychiatric findings. Glutamatergic dysfunction might be important for the generation of head pain but may only occasionally be sufficient to trigger migraine-like attacks in nonmigraineurs.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Head Organs and Neurology (DKNS) > Clinic of Neurology

UniBE Contributor:

Schankin, Christoph


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health








Stefanie Hetzenecker

Date Deposited:

19 Sep 2016 09:35

Last Modified:

19 Sep 2016 09:41

Publisher DOI:


PubMed ID:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

anti-NMDA-receptor antibodies; autoimmune encephalitis; headache; limbic encephalitis; migraine; secondary headache




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