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What is a sentinel headache?

Steven A. Meyers, MD
Diagnostic Radiology
A sentinel headache is due to the leakage of blood from a brain aneurysm. Most often there is no warning prior to an aneurysm rupturing but occasionally a small leakage of blood occurs which produces a very sudden and very severe headache. If recognized, this could lead to diagnosis of the aneurysm prior to rupture. This is why a sudden, severe headache should be considered a medical emergency.

When an aneurysm leaks (releases a small amount of blood), it can result in a sudden and severe headache. These headaches are called sentinel or warning headaches. Typically, a brain aneurysm ruptures without warning, so very few people get these sentinel headaches before a rupture.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.