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2022 Mar 03

J Clin Med



Trends in the Management of Headache Disorders in US Emergency Departments: Analysis of 2007-2018 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey Data.


Yang S, Orlova Y, Lipe A, Boren M, Hincapie-Castillo JM, Park H, Chang C-Y, Wilson DL, Adkins L, Lo-Ciganic W-H
J Clin Med. 2022 Mar 03; 11(5).
PMID: 35268492.


We examined trends in management of headache disorders in United States (US) emergency department (ED) visits. We conducted a cross-sectional study using 2007-2018 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey data. We included adult patient visits (≥18 years) with a primary ED discharge diagnosis of headache. We classified headache medications by pharmacological group: opioids, butalbital, ergot alkaloids/triptans, acetaminophen/nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), antiemetics, diphenhydramine, corticosteroids, and intravenous fluids. To obtain reliable estimates, we aggregated data into three time periods: 2007-2010, 2011-2014, and 2015-2018. Using multivariable logistic regression, we examined medication, neuroimaging, and outpatient referral trends, separately. Among headache-related ED visits, opioid use decreased from 54.1% in 2007-2010 to 28.3% in 2015-2018 (P < 0.001). There were statistically significant increasing trends in acetaminophen/NSAIDs, diphenhydramine, and corticosteroids use (all P < 0.001). Changes in butalbital (6.4%), ergot alkaloid/triptan (4.7%), antiemetic (59.2% in 2015-2018), and neuroimaging (37.3%) use over time were insignificant. Headache-related ED visits with outpatient referral for follow-up increased slightly from 73.3% in 2007-2010 to 79.7% in 2015-2018 (P = 0.02). Reflecting evidence-based guideline recommendations for headache management, opioid use substantially decreased from 2007 to 2018 among US headache-related ED visits. Future studies are warranted to identify strategies to promote evidence-based treatment for headaches (e.g., sumatriptan, dexamethasone) and appropriate outpatient referral and reduce unnecessary neuroimaging orders in EDs.