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Headache. 2007 May;47(5):703-10.

Emergency department management of acute migraine in children in Canada: a practice variation study.

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1
University of Alberta-Pediatrics, Division of Neurology, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES:

Evidence-based guidelines for the treatment of children with migraine are limited given the paucity of randomized controlled trials, especially in the emergency department (ED). Our objectives were to: (1) characterize the treatment of children with migraine in the ED; (2) determine whether treatment varies in pediatric versus mixed (pediatric and adult) EDs.

METHODS:

Children aged 5 to 17 years presenting to 4 regional emergency departments in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada during the 2003/2004 fiscal year with a diagnostic code of headache or migraine were selected. A standardized retrospective chart abstraction was performed and migraine or probable migraine cases were classified based on the International Classification of Headache Disorders II.

RESULTS:

Three hundred and eighty-two cases were identified of which 48.7% (n = 186/382) met sufficient criteria for migraine. No treatment was given in 44.2% (n = 169/382). Simple oral analgesics (23.3%; n = 89/182) and dopamine antagonists (metoclopramide and prochlorperazine; 20.7%; n = 79/182) were prescribed first-line most commonly. Opiate medications (5.5%), ketorolac (4.7%), dihydroergotamine (1%) were prescribed first-line infrequently. There was a significant difference in the management choices between pediatric and mixed adult/pediatric EDs (chi(2)= 19.695; df = 5; P= .001). The pediatric ED was more likely to prescribe a dopamine antagonist (12.9 vs 6.8%; P= .044) while the mixed adult/pediatric EDs were more likely to prescribe an opiate (28.1% vs 18.4%; P= .031). Children with migraine in all EDs were significantly more likely to receive drug therapy (68.3% vs 42.9%; P < .001) or a dopamine antagonist (32.3% vs 9.7%; P < .001). Polypharmacy (31.2%; n = 119/382) and neuroimaging (29.1%; n = 111/382) were common. Outcome was poorly documented overall. No adverse events were recorded.

CONCLUSIONS:

Significant variation in practice in the management of acute headaches in children was observed between mixed population and pediatric-only emergency physicians in the same city. Most children do not receive any drug therapy. Children presenting to the pediatric ED were significantly more likely to receive a dopamine antagonist while opiates were prescribed more commonly in the mixed ED. More clinical trials are required in children to clarify areas of clinical uncertainty on which evidence-based practice guidelines can be formed.

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