✓ An excruciating headache of instantaneous onset, or thunderclap headache, may be caused by a variety of serious disorders, including aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage, cerebral venous sinus thrombosis, pituitary apoplexy, and carotid artery or vertebral artery dissection. The authors describe a patient with this type of headache who was found to have a spontaneous retroclival hematoma.
A 49-year-old woman experienced an instantaneous excruciating headache. Results of computerized tomography (CT) scans of the head were normal, but on examination of the cerebrospinal fluid xanthochromia was found. Magnetic resonance (MR) imaging of the cervical spine revealed a retroclival hematoma. Three cerebral angiographic studies did not reveal the source of the hemorrhage and a repeated MR image demonstrated resolution of the hematoma. The patient made an uneventful recovery.
Spontaneous retroclival hematoma is an exceedingly rare type of intracranial hemorrhage and may be associated with normal findings on CT scans. Spontaneous retroclival hematoma should be included in the differential diagnosis of thunderclap headache.