RadInfo Logo Home

Headache—Child

Although headache is common in children of all ages, imaging tests are rarely needed and most often do not reveal an underlying cause. Primary headache, a headache not due to an underlying condition, can happen at any age and is typically caused by tension or migraine. Imaging tests are not needed in children with primary headache. Secondary headache, a headache due to an underlying condition, is more common in younger children. The decision to have a brain imaging test to find the cause of secondary headache should be decided by the pediatrician after reviewing the child’s medical history and a physical examination.

When the child’s pediatrician decides imaging is needed, MRI of the brain, and possibly the neck, without contrast is the most appropriate initial test. MRI is the best imaging test to look at the brain tissue for structural abnormalities or when the child had a prior incident of head trauma. CT of the brain may be the best initial imaging for sudden severe (thunderclap) headache, if bleeding in the brain is suspected, in headache due to acute trauma, or in an emergency setting when MRI is not available. Both MRI and CT may be used to look at the arteries (angiography) or veins (venography) in the brain and neck; intravenous contrast may need to be used. Intravenous contrast is used when there is infection or tumor and may be needed when other abnormalities are found.

For more information, see the Headache page.

This page was reviewed on December, 15, 2021

Pediatric Content

Pediatric
Some imaging tests and treatments have special pediatric considerations. The hand denotes child-specific content.

Sponsored By

Please note

RadiologyInfo.org is not a medical facility. Please contact your physician with specific medical questions or for a referral to a radiologist or other physician. To locate a medical imaging or radiation oncology provider in your community, you can search the ACR-accredited facilities database.

This website does not provide cost information. The costs for specific medical imaging tests, treatments and procedures may vary by geographic region. Discuss the fees associated with your prescribed procedure with your doctor, the medical facility staff and/or your insurance provider to get a better understanding of the possible charges you will incur.

Web page review process: This Web page is reviewed regularly by a physician with expertise in the medical area presented and is further reviewed by committees from the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) and the American College of Radiology (ACR), comprising physicians with expertise in several radiologic areas.

Outside links: For the convenience of our users, RadiologyInfo.org provides links to relevant websites. RadiologyInfo.org, RSNA and ACR are not responsible for the content contained on the web pages found at these links.