Context: Headache experts have suggested that to improve the recognition of migraine, patients with a stable pattern of episodic, disabling headache and a normal physical exam should be considered to have migraine in the absence of contradictory evidence. The premise upon which this approach is based-that is, that episodic, recurrent primary headache in the clinic is usually migraine-has not been evaluated in prospective clinical studies.
Objectives: To (1) evaluate the diagnoses of patients consulting their physician with primary episodic headache and (2) compare clinic diagnoses and patient self-diagnoses with International Headache Society (IHS) headache diagnoses assigned on the basis of longitudinal data from patient diaries.
Design: Prospective, open-label study. During the screening visit, patients self-reported a headache diagnosis and then were assigned a headache diagnosis by their physician following his or her customary practice. Patients with a new physician diagnosis of migraine or nonmigraine primary headache were given diaries to record headache symptoms for up to 3 months or 6 attacks. Members of an expert panel, unaware of the clinic diagnosis, used diary data to assign a headache diagnosis to each attack and to each patient.
Setting: One hundred twenty-eight (128) practices in 15 countries including the United States.
Patients: A total of 1203 male and female patients between 18 and 65 years of age who consulted their physician with headache as a primary or secondary complaint.
Results: Overall, 94% of patients with a physician diagnosis of nonmigraine primary headache or a new clinic diagnosis of migraine had IHS-defined migraine (76%) or probable migraine (migrainous) (18%) headache on the basis of longitudinal diary data. A new clinic diagnosis of migraine was almost always correct: 98% of patients with a clinic diagnosis of migraine had IHS-defined migraine (87% of patients) or probable migraine (11% of patients) headache on the basis of longitudinal diary data. On the other hand, review of diaries of patients with a clinic diagnosis of nonmigraine revealed that 82% of these patients had IHS-defined migraine (48%) or probable migraine (34%) headache. Altogether, one in four patients (25%) with IHS-defined migraine according to longitudinal diary data did not receive a clinic diagnosis of migraine.
Conclusions: These findings support the diagnostic approach of considering episodic, disabling primary headaches with an otherwise normal physical exam to be migraine in the absence of contradictory evidence. If in doubt of diagnosis or when assigning a nonmigraine diagnosis, strong consideration should be given to the use of a diary to confirm primary headache diagnosis.