What’s new in brain health?


This transcript has been edited for clarity.

Dear colleagues, I am Christoph Diener from the medical faculty of the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany. Today, I would like to discuss what happened in neurology in the past month.

Treatment of tension-type headache

I would like to start with headache. You are all aware that we have several new studies regarding the prevention of migraine, but very few studies involving nondrug treatments for tension-type headache.

A working group in Göttingen, Germany, conducted a study in people with frequent episodic and chronic tension-type headache. The first of the four randomized groups received traditional Chinese acupuncture for 3 months. The second group received physical therapy and exercise for 1 hour per week for 12 weeks. The third group received a combination of acupuncture and exercise. The last was a control group that received only standard care.

The outcome parameters of tension-type headache were evaluated after 6 months and again after 12 months. Previously, these same researchers published that the intensity but not the frequency of tension-type headache was reduced by active therapy.

In Cephalalgia, they published the outcome for the endpoints of depression, anxiety, and quality of life. Acupuncture, exercise, and the combination of the two improved depression, anxiety, and quality of life. This shows that nonmedical treatment is effective in people with frequent episodic and chronic tension-type headache.

Headache after COVID-19

The next study was published in Headache and discusses headache after COVID-19. In this review of published studies, more than 50% of people with COVID-19 develop headache. It is more frequent in young patients and people with preexisting primary headaches, such as migraine and tension-type headache. Prognosis is usually good, but some patients develop new, daily persistent headache, which is a major problem because treatment is unclear. We desperately need studies investigating how to treat this new, daily persistent headache after COVID-19.

SSRIs during COVID-19 infection

The next study also focuses on COVID-19. We have conflicting results from several studies suggesting that selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors might be effective in people with mild COVID-19 infection. This hypothesis was tested in a study in Brazil and was published in JAMA, The study included 1,288 outpatients with mild COVID-19 who either received 50 mg of fluvoxamine twice daily for 10 days or placebo. There was no benefit of the treatment for any outcome.

Preventing dementia with antihypertensive treatment

The next study was published in the European Heart Journal and addresses the question of whether effective antihypertensive treatment in elderly persons can prevent dementia. This is a meta-analysis of five placebo-controlled trials with more than 28,000 patients. The meta-analysis clearly shows that treating hypertension in elderly patients does prevent dementia. The benefit is higher if the blood pressure is lowered by a larger amount which also stays true for elderly patients. There is no negative impact of lowering blood pressure in this population.

Antiplatelet therapy

The next study was published in Stroke and reexamines whether resumption of antiplatelet therapy should be early or late in people who had an intracerebral hemorrhage while on antiplatelet therapy. In the Taiwanese Health Registry, this was studied in 1,584 patients. The researchers divided participants into groups based on whether antiplatelet therapy was resumed within 30 days or after 30 days. In 1 year, the rate of recurrent intracerebral hemorrhage was 3.2%. There was no difference whether antiplatelet therapy was resumed early or late.


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