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Pain Res Manag. 2011 May-Jun;16(3):183-6.

Examination of migraine management in emergency departments.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, John Hopkins Bayview Medical Center, Baltimore, MD, USA.



Despite advances in treatment, patients with migraine have been underdiagnosed and undertreated, specifically in emergency departments. In addition, great variability exists with respect to the diagnosis, management and treatment of migraine patients in emergency departments. In particular, migraine-specific treatments, including serotonin receptor agonists, appear to be rarely used.


To examine the diagnosis and management of migraine patients within Ontario emergency departments.


A prospective survey was designed to inquire how emergency physicians diagnose and manage patients with migraine. Questions focused on the use of serotonin receptor agonists, the rationale behind their use or nonuse, and acute headache protocols. The survey also inquired about the use of International Classification Of Headache Disorders-2 criteria in diagnosing migraine by emergency physicians, medication prescribed on discharge, and referrals made to outpatient specialists. These surveys were distributed to and anonymously completed by emergency physicians in several departments in Ontario.


Migraine-specific treatments were underused in emergency departments. Furthermore, many departments lacked headache protocols and, often, migraine-specific treatment was not included in the few departments with protocols.


Diagnosis and management of migraines can be improved within emergency departments, and patients can be more effectively channelled toward appropriate outpatient care.

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