Adherence to guidelines of treatment of non-traumatic headache in the emergency department.

Research paper by Antonio A Granato, Maria Elisa ME Morelli, Franco F Cominotto, Laura L D'Acunto, Paolo P Manganotti

Indexed on: 24 Jan '20Published on: 23 Jan '20Published in: Acta Neurologica Belgica


To evaluate therapies employed in patients presenting to the emergency department (ED) with a chief complaint of non-traumatic headache to check if guidelines are followed. A 6-month retrospective analysis of the ED records of all the patients who referred to the ED of the University Hospital of Trieste for non-traumatic headache was performed. Out of 37.335 admissions, 336 patients were selected (0.9%). Diagnosis at discharge was primary headache (25.6%), secondary headache (40.5%), and headache "not otherwise specified" (33.9%). One-hundred-ninety-three patients were treated in mono- (51.8%) or poly-therapy (48.2%), with NSAIDs (46.5%), benzodiazepines (13.4%), antiemetics (10.7%), analgesics (8.3%), opioids (1.6%), triptans (1.5%), and other drugs (17.7%). NSAIDs, particularly ketorolac, are the class of drugs most often prescribed in ED, independently of the discharge diagnosis. Metoclopramide is rarely used in monotherapy (4%), but it is the drug most frequently used in association with NSAIDs (19.3%). Only two migraineurs received triptans. Mean time spent in ED was 231 ± 130 min, which was significantly longer in patients who received treatment (272 ± 141 vs. 177 ± 122 min; p = 0.003). No drugs had any side effects. In accordance with the current guidelines, NSAIDs monotherapy or in association with antiemetics were the drugs most often prescribed in ED. Opioids were rarely used probably because of potential sedative side effects. Only very few patients received triptans. Special attention should be drawn also in ED to apply the International Classification of Headache Disorders criteria, which can lead to clarify the diagnosis and receive the specific treatment.