Utilization, diagnosis, treatment and cost of migraine treatment in the emergency department

Deborah I Friedman, Steven Feldon, Robert Holloway, Susan Fisher

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Objective. - To determine the percentages of patients receiving migraine-specific therapy and to estimate the rate of unnecessary neuroimaging studies in the emergency department (ED). Methods. - A retrospective study was conducted analyzing medical records and hospital charge data of ED visits for migraine during 2005 in 2 university-affiliated hospitals. Following a preliminary review of 23 randomly selected ED charts selected to determine the reliability of the coding process, 172 other charts were selected to include 1 visit per patient with a primary discharge diagnosis code of 346.0, 346.1, or 346.9. The diagnosis of migraine was confirmed using predefined criteria. Demographic information, treatment strategies, laboratory and neuroimaging tests, response to therapy, discharge planning, and charge data were evaluated. Results. - Of 156 patients with completed visits, neuroimaging studies were performed in 36 patients (23%), and only 4 patients had no documented justification for obtaining imaging studies. Seventy-eight patients (50%) had a potential contraindication to receiving migraine-specific therapy. Nine patients (11.5% of eligible patients) received migraine-specific therapy. Most patients were treated with a combination of parenteral antiemetics, narcotics, or ketorolac. Conclusion. - This analysis supports previous studies indicating the underutilization of migraine-specific treatment in the ED, and suggests that the ED is generally used as a "last resort" when the patient's home medication fails. Because of various contraindications, migraine-specific medications may not be a treatment option in up to 50% of patients seen in the ED. Although almost all of the neuroimaging studies were justified, the radiology charges were a major contributing factor to the overall financial burden of emergency migraine care.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1163-1173
Number of pages11
Issue number8
StatePublished - Sep 2009


  • Cost analysis
  • Emergency department
  • Migraine treatment
  • Neuroimaging
  • Utilization

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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