Weight loss surgery may be a risk factor for a specific kind of headache, according to a new study published in the journal Neurology.
Researchers looked at 338 patients with a history of spontaneous intracranial hypotension—headaches typically caused by a cerebrospinal fluid leak—and found that 11 of those patients had undergone a form of bariatric surgery. Though 11 people, 3.3% of the sample, is a seemingly small number and certainly not enough to change clinical practice, it was still significant enough for the researchers to warn physicians of the possible relationship.
If someone is experiencing spontaneous intracranial hypotension, they typically feel a headache when they are upright, and the pain goes away when they lie horizontal. That’s due to the leaking spinal fluid, which can cause pain, nausea and neck stiffing. Body weight is thought to play a role in cerebrospinal fluid pressure, and it’s possible, the study authors suggest, that fat tissue loss may increase susceptibility to the headaches.
“It’s important for people who have had bariatric surgery and their doctors to be aware of this possible link, which has not been reported before,” said study author Wouter I. Schievink, MD, of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, in a press release. “This could be the cause of sudden, severe headaches that can be treated effectively, but there can be serious consequences if misdiagnosed.”