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Primary Headache Disorders in the Emergency Department

Lange, Suzanne E. RN, MSN, CCRN

doi: 10.1097/TME.0b013e3182261105

Headache is 1 of the 5 most common chief complaints in the United States and accounts for nearly 5 million visits in the emergency department (ED; B. Freidman, D. Serrano, M. Reed, M. Diamond, & R. Lipton, 2009). Despite the number of patients admitted to EDs with a headache, there appears to be a lack of consensus among practitioners as how best to treat primary headache disorder in this patient population. Current research has taken into consideration the specific factors that contribute to ED visits by patients with headaches. This research has identified the need for standardized practice protocols for the treatment of headaches in the ED. In addition, research has focused on new strategies of pain management that takes into account the chronicity of headaches. This article focuses on an important consideration in the management of primary headache disorders provided by ED clinicians—the prevention of headache recurrence through thorough patient education and the identification and modification of risk factors.

Primary Headache Disorders in the Emergency Department, Loyola University, Chicago, Illinois.

Corresponding Author: Suzanne E. Lange, RN, MSN, CCRN, 100 Forest Place, Apartment 204, Oak Park, IL 60301 (

Disclosure: The author reports no conflicts of interest.

© 2011 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.