Management of headache in emergency room

Neurol Sci. 2004 Oct;25 Suppl 3:S187-9. doi: 10.1007/s10072-004-0282-8.


Headache is one of the most common symptoms that leads patients to the emergency room (ER) and is often related to diseases requiring prompt diagnosis and immediate treatment. This consideration brought us to consider the importance of the neurologist in improving the management of patients arriving in the ER with headache. We carried out a study for testing the degree of agreement between ER physician and neurologist using patient evaluation at headache centre (HC) as the gold standard. One hundred and seventeen patients with idiopathic (78) or symptomatic (39) headache were evaluated by the ER physician, the ER neurologist and the HC expert. The ER physician and the HC expert reached a fair agreement (Kappa=0.40); the other two pairs reached a moderate agreement (Kappa=0.57-0.60). There was no significant difference in the agreement of the three evaluators in patients with impairment of daily living activities or aged over 40. The agreement between the ER physician and the neurologist was lower (Kappa=0.58), especially in patients with their first headache episode. Based on our results, patients seen at the ER for a headache episode can be fairly successfully managed by the ER physician, except those who present a first attack, for whom neurological consultation is needed.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Emergency Medical Services*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Headache Disorders / diagnosis
  • Headache Disorders / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Migraine Disorders / diagnosis
  • Physicians
  • Quality of Health Care