Efficacy of ketorolac in the treatment of acute migraine attack: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Acad Emerg Med. 2022 Sep;29(9):1118-1131. doi: 10.1111/acem.14457. Epub 2022 Mar 10.


Objectives: This review was designated to evaluate the efficacy of parenteral ketorolac in treating acute migraine headache.

Methods: We searched databases Cochrane Central Register of Controlled Trials (CENTRAL), Medline, and Google Scholar up to January 2021 and identified randomized controlled trials comparing ketorolac to any other medications in treating patients presenting with migraine headache.

Results: Thirteen trials were included in our review, comprising 944 participants. We derived seven comparisons: ketorolac versus phenothiazines, metoclopramide, sumatriptan, dexamethasone, sodium valproate, caffeine, and diclofenac. There were no significant differences in the reduction of pain intensity at 1 h under the comparisons between ketorolac and phenothiazines (standard mean difference [SMD] = 0.09, p = 0.74) or metoclopramide (SMD = 0.02, p = 0.95). We also found no difference in the outcome recurrence of headache (ketorolac vs. phenothiazines (risk ratio [RR] =0.98, p = 0.97)], ability to return to work or usual activity (ketorolac vs. metoclopramide [RR = 0.64, p = 0.13]), need for rescue medication (ketorolac vs. phenothiazines [RR = 1.72, p = 0.27], ketorolac vs. metoclopramide [RR 2.20, p = 0.18]), and frequency of adverse effects (ketorolac vs. metoclopramide [RR = 1.07, p = 0.82]). Limited trials suggested that ketorolac offered better pain relief at 1 h compared to sumatriptan and dexamethasone; had lesser frequency of adverse effects than phenothiazines; and was superior to sodium valproate in terms of reduction of pain intensity at 1 h, need for rescue medication, and sustained headache freedom within 24 h.

Conclusions: Ketorolac may have similar efficacy to phenothiazines and metoclopramide in treating acute migraine headache. Ketorolac may also offer better pain control than sumatriptan, dexamethasone, and sodium valproate. However, given the lack of evidence due to inadequate number of trials available, future studies are warranted.

Keywords: cephalgia; headache; ketorolac; ketorolac tromethamine; meta-analysis; migraine; systematic review; toradol.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Caffeine / therapeutic use
  • Dexamethasone / therapeutic use
  • Diclofenac / therapeutic use
  • Humans
  • Ketorolac* / therapeutic use
  • Metoclopramide / adverse effects
  • Migraine Disorders* / drug therapy
  • Pain / drug therapy
  • Phenothiazines / therapeutic use
  • Sumatriptan / therapeutic use
  • Valproic Acid / therapeutic use


  • Phenothiazines
  • Diclofenac
  • Caffeine
  • Valproic Acid
  • Dexamethasone
  • Sumatriptan
  • Metoclopramide
  • Ketorolac