Intravenous caffeine citrate vs. magnesium sulfate for reducing pain in patients with acute migraine headache; a prospective quasi-experimental study

Korean J Pain. 2017 Jul;30(3):176-182. doi: 10.3344/kjp.2017.30.3.176. Epub 2017 Jun 30.


Background: Current evidence suggests that intravenous magnesium sulfate might be effective for reducing migraine pain. In a recent pilot study, we showed that intravenous caffeine citrate could reduce the severity of migraine headache. The objective of this study is to investigate the efficacy of intravenous caffeine citrate vs. magnesium sulfate for management of acute migraine headache.

Methods: We conducted a prospective quasi-experimental study from January until May 2016 in two educational medical centers of Shahid Beheshti University of Medical Sciences (Shoahadaye Tajrish Hospital and Imam Hossein Hospital), Tehran, Iran. The study included patients who were referred to the emergency department and met the migraine diagnosis criteria of the International Headache Society. Patients were allocated into 2 groups receiving either 60 mg intravenous caffeine or 2 g intravenous magnesium sulfate. The pain scores, based on the visual analog scale, were recorded on admission, as well as one and two hours after receiving the drug. A Chi-Square test and student t-test were used for analysis of baseline characteristics. A Mann-Whitney U test and Wilcoxon singed rank test were used to analyze differences in the visual analogue scale (VAS) score between and within the groups respectively.

Results: In total, 70 patients (35 patients in each group) with the mean age of 33.1 ± 11.3 years were included (64.3% female). For the Caffeine citrate group, the median pain score decreased from 9.0 (2.0) to 5.0 (4.0) after one hour and to 3.0 (4.0) after two hours. For the magnesium sulfate group, the pain score decreased from 8.0 (2.0) to 2.0 (2.0) after one hour and to 0.0 (1.0) after two hours. Both intravenous caffeine citrate and intravenous magnesium sulfate reduced pain scores significantly but the magnesium sulfate group showed more improvement than the Caffeine citrate group after one hour (P < 0.001) and after two hours (P < 0.001).

Conclusions: It is likely that both intravenous caffeine and intravenous magnesium sulfate can reduce the severity of migraine headache. Moreover, intravenous magnesium sulfate at a dose of 2 g might be superior to intravenous caffeine citrate 60 mg for the short term management of migraine headache in emergency departments.

Keywords: Caffeine citrate; Emergency department; Headache; Magnesium sulfate; Migraine disorders; Pain management.