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Neurology. 1997 Mar;48(3):602-7.

Pediatric migraine and the International Headache Society (IHS) criteria.

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Department of Neurology, Montefiore Medical Center, Bronx, NY, USA.



The optimal criteria for the diagnosis of migraine without aura in children are controversial. One strategy for assessing the validity of diagnostic criteria is to compare them with expert clinical diagnoses.


To study the agreement between clinical headache diagnoses assigned by pediatric neurologists and symptom-based diagnoses using the International Headache Society (IHS) criteria as well as alternative case definitions.


We reviewed the records of 253 children and adolescents consecutively evaluated by pediatric neurologists at the Montefiore Headache Unit. Clinical diagnoses assigned by the physicians were used as the gold standard in evaluating the validity of the IHS criteria for the diagnosis of migraine without aura. Alternative symptom-based diagnoses were compared with the clinical gold standard.


Detailed headache histories were abstracted from charts of 253 children; 167 children had complete data on all features required for IHS diagnosis. Eighty-eight (52.7%) children received a diagnosis of migraine without aura. Using the clinical diagnosis as the gold standard, the IHS criteria had a sensitivity of 27.3% and a specificity of 92.4%. The poor sensitivity of the IHS definition is a consequence of the rarity of certain features in children clinically diagnosed with migraine: duration of 2 hours or longer (55.7%), unilateral pain (34.1%), vomiting (47.7%), and phonophobia (27.3%). Based on these findings we suggested a definition for pediatric migraine headache without aura that is less complex, more sensitive (71.6%), and almost as specific as the IHS criteria.


The IHS criteria for migraine without aura have poor sensitivity but high specificity using a clinical diagnosis as the gold standard. The IHS criteria should be modified to better reflect current pediatric clinical practice.

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