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Am J Med. 2005 Mar;118 Suppl 1:18S-27S.

Initiating and optimizing acute therapy for migraine: the role of patient-centered stratified care.

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Diamond Headache Clinic, 467 Deming Place, Suite 500, Chicago, Illinois 60614, USA.


Migraine is a chronic, intermittently disabling condition that affects physical, mental, and social aspects of health-related quality of life. Because patients seeking assistance with migraine most often present to primary care providers, these healthcare professionals play critical roles in the diagnosis and treatment process. A comprehensive migraine management plan involves a partnership between the patient and healthcare professional where treatment goals and strategies are established. Elements of such a plan should include preventive strategies to reduce the frequency and effects of future attacks as well as the use of acute treatments to address the immediate need for relief during an attack. Approaches to prevention include education, lifestyle modification, and, often, appropriate medication. Many medications have been used for acute treatment. Nonspecific agents include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), single or combination analgesics (sometimes including antiemetics or caffeine), and narcotics. Migraine-specific medications include ergot alkaloids and triptans (5-hydroxytryptamine(1B/1D) agonists). Various professional organizations have created guidelines to help providers in choosing appropriate management interventions. Clinical approaches to the patient with migraine include step care, whereby all patients begin on a simple or nonspecific treatment, stepping up to the next level of therapy if treatment is unsuccessful; or stratified care, whereby first-line therapy is tailored to the severity of the patient's pattern of headache. Studies have demonstrated that for more disabled headache patients, the stratified-care approach results in more robust headache response with less disability and greater cost-effectiveness than step care. Patient satisfaction studies demonstrate that the use of migraine-specific abortive medications (triptans) is associated with a higher satisfaction rate than over-the-counter preparations, NSAIDs, and analgesic combinations. Patients who initially reported satisfaction with the latter medications also reported a preference for triptan therapy. Healthcare professionals can assist patients, not only by choosing the most appropriate medication but also by assessing whether the level of benefit the patient is currently receiving could be improved.

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