Droperidol vs. prochlorperazine for benign headaches in the emergency department

Acad Emerg Med. 2001 Sep;8(9):873-9. doi: 10.1111/j.1553-2712.2001.tb01147.x.


Objective: To compare the efficacy of droperidol with that of prochlorperazine for the treatment of benign headaches in emergency department (ED) patients.

Methods: Prospective, randomized clinical trial in an urban ED. Patients were given either droperidol, 5 mg intramuscular (IM) or 2.5 mg intravenous (IV), or prochlorperazine, 10 mg IM or 10 mg IV. Measurements included side effects and the patient's pain perception as measured on a 100-mm visual analog scale (VAS) at baseline, 30, and 60 minutes after the medication was given. Data were analyzed using chi-square, two-tailed t-tests, and two-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) when appropriate.

Results: During an eight-month period, 168 patients were enrolled. Eighty-two (48.8%) of the patients received droperidol; 86 (51.2%) received prochlorperazine. In the droperidol group, 49 (59.6%) received IM administration and 33 (40.4%) IV. In the prochlorperazine group, 57 (66.3%) received IM administration and 29 (33.7%) IV. Sixty minutes after the medication, the mean decrease in the VAS scores was 81.4% for droperidol and 66.9% for prochlorperazine (p = 0.001). At 30 minutes, 60.9% of the patients receiving droperidol and 44.2% of the patients receiving prochlorperazine had obtained at least a 50% reduction in their VAS scores (p = 0.09). At 60 minutes, 90.2% of the patients receiving droperidol and 68.6% of the patients receiving prochlorperazine had at least a 50% reduction in their VAS scores (p = 0.017). No difference between IM dosing and IV dosing was detected. Side effects, including dystonia, akathisia, and decreased level of consciousness, were seen in 15.2% of the patients receiving droperidol and 9.61% of the patients receiving prochlorperazine. No significant or persisting morbidity was detected.

Conclusions: Droperidol was more effective than prochlorperazine in relieving pain associated with benign headaches.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analysis of Variance
  • Dopamine Antagonists / administration & dosage
  • Dopamine Antagonists / adverse effects
  • Dopamine Antagonists / therapeutic use*
  • Droperidol / administration & dosage
  • Droperidol / adverse effects
  • Droperidol / therapeutic use*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital*
  • Female
  • Headache / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intramuscular
  • Injections, Intravenous
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Pain Measurement
  • Prochlorperazine / administration & dosage
  • Prochlorperazine / adverse effects
  • Prochlorperazine / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Dopamine Antagonists
  • Droperidol
  • Prochlorperazine