Objective

To report a case of petrous apicitis that manifested as chronic migraine without aura and to discuss the pathophysiological mechanisms behind this presentation.

Background

Petrous apicitis is a rare complication of acute otitis media with varied clinical presentations that stem from the close proximity of the petrous apex to numerous neurovascular structures. Headache is among the common symptoms of petrous apicitis.

Methods

A case of new onset headache in the setting of petrous apicitis with symptomatic response to antibiotic therapy was reported. We provided a brief review of peripheral pathophysiological mechanisms of migraine and correlated to mechanism of headache in petrous apicitis.

Results

A 65‐year‐old man with chronic otitis externa/media presented with ongoing headache fulfilling International Classification of Headache Disorders 3rd edition (ICHD‐3) criteria for chronic migraine without aura that persisted despite undergoing right mastoidectomy and tympanoplasty with multiple courses of oral antibiotic therapy for his chronic otitis. MRI brain revealed petrous apicitis, otomastoiditis, and clival osteomyelitis. His imaging findings improved and his migraine‐like headache completely resolved after treatment with a prolonged course of antibiotics.

Conclusions

Petrous apicitis can present as a headache with features of migraine, and in this case in particular, as chronic migraine without aura. The pathophysiological mechanisms that may underlie the generation of migraine‐like headache in petrous apicitis may include the activation of nociceptive fibers within the periosteum of the petrous apex and clivus whose cell bodies originate in the trigeminal ganglion and upper cervical dorsal root ganglia. By treating the peripheral pathology, resolution of the headache may be achieved.

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