The aims of the study were (1) to analyze the etiology and clinical management of headaches in children in the emergency department and (2) to analyze the treatment used in children diagnosed with headaches and with migraines.
Retrospective study of all the patients who were admitted to the pediatric emergency department of Hospital Professor Doutor Fernando Fonseca, Lisbon, in 2014, with a chief complaint of headaches or the primary discharge diagnosis was headache/migraine.
Headache related cases represented 3.8% of all the visits, a total of 2354 subjects. The median age was 10 years and 52.6% were female. The most frequent diagnoses were as follow: headaches (21.3%), upper respiratory infections (18.4%), and migraines (6.1%). There were 4 cases of meningitis, 6,5% of all patients underwent computed tomography which was mostly requested in school-age children and adolescents. The average time from the first medical observation until discharge was 85 minutes. Fifty-five percent did not take any pain relief medication, 17.2% took acetaminophen, and 11.1% took ibuprofen. Patients who received ondansetron had less revisits (P = 0.000). Subjects with mild-moderate pain treated with acetaminophen or no medication had more revisits (P = 0.000).
Secondary benign headaches were the most common and very rarely headache as a symptom was associated with life-threatening situations. Antiemetics seem to be efficient ally in the treatment of primary headaches, but it is important to consider alternative pharmacological regimes in patients who present with higher pain scores.