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Emerg Med Clin North Am. 2009 Feb;27(1):71-87, viii. doi: 10.1016/j.emc.2008.09.005.

Diagnosis and management of the primary headache disorders in the emergency department setting.

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Department of Emergency Medicine, Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, NY 10467, USA.


Headache continues to be a frequent cause of emergency department (ED) use, accounting for 2% of all visits. Most of these headaches prove to be benign but painful exacerbations of chronic headache disorders, such as migraine, tension-type, and cluster. The goal of ED management is to provide rapid and quick relief of benign headache, without causing undue side effects, and to recognize headaches with malignant course. Although these headaches have distinct epidemiologies and clinical phenotypes, there is overlapping response to therapy; nonsteroidals, triptans, dihydroergotamine, and the antiemetic dopamine antagonists may play a therapeutic role for each of these acute headaches. This article reviews the diagnostic criteria and management strategies for the primary headache disorders.

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