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Low-Dose Propofol for the Abortive Treatment of Pediatric Migraine in the Emergency Department

Sheridan, David C. MD*; Spiro, David M. MD, MPH*†; Nguyen, Thuan MD, PhD; Koch, Thomas K. MD§∥; Meckler, Garth D. MD, MSHS*†

doi: 10.1097/PEC.0b013e3182768a6b
Original Articles

Objective Limited progress has been made in the past decade for abortive treatment of migraine headache in the pediatric emergency department (PED). Propofol, a general anesthetic, has been reported to be effective in the treatment of refractory headaches in adults at subanesthetic doses but never in the pediatric population. The goal of this study was to review our institution’s experience with subanesthetic doses of propofol for the abortive treatment of pediatric migraine and compare propofol with standard abortive therapy in the PED.

Methods Retrospective review of all patients discharged from the Oregon Health and Science University PED with a diagnosis of migraine headache from January 2010 to July 2011. Patients treated with subanesthetic doses of propofol were compared with matched controls who received standard abortive migraine therapy, defined as the combined use of a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication, diphenhydramine, and prochlorperazine. Outcome variables of interest included reduction of pain as measured on a self-reported visual analog scale and length of stay after administration of initial abortive medication.

Results Patients who received subanesthetic doses of propofol achieved significantly greater reduction in pain scores (80.1% vs 61.1%; P < 0.05) compared with matched controls as well as shorter stay (122 minutes vs 203 minutes; P = 0.2) after treatment. No adverse effects (hypotension, respiratory depression, or hypoxia) were recorded in either group.

Conclusions Propofol seems to be effective for the abortive treatment of pediatric migraine headache in the PED. Further prospective trials are warranted to either support or refute these initial findings.

From the *Department of Pediatrics, †Division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine, Department of Emergency Medicine, ‡Department of Public Health and Preventative Medicine, §Department of Pediatrics, and ∥Division of Pediatric Neurology, Department of Neurology, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland, OR.

Disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Reprints: David C. Sheridan, MD, Department of Pediatrics, Oregon Health and Science University, 707 SW Gaines Rd, Portland, OR 97239 (e-mail:

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.