Emergency department treatment of migraine, tension, and mixed-type headache

J Emerg Med. 1994 Sep-Oct;12(5):657-64. doi: 10.1016/0736-4679(94)90419-7.


The complaint of headache is frequently encountered in the emergency department, but most patients with cephalalgia have a benign etiology for their pain. At least 90% of patients presenting with headache are diagnosed as suffering from benign vascular or muscle-tension (for example, migraine, tension, or mixed-type) headache. There is no consensus on the ideal therapeutic approach to these patients. Classically utilized narcotic therapy suffers from problems with efficacy, relapse, and potential for abuse and addiction. However, other agents have successively proved to be imperfect as well, despite the many therapeutic approaches that have been suggested in the medical literature. While no one drug has emerged as clearly superior for treatment of acute benign headache, recent investigations have clarified the role of certain therapies. This review is intended to familiarize emergency physicians with the latest information on most recommended therapeutic approaches to the patient with headache.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Analgesics / therapeutic use
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Antiemetics / therapeutic use
  • Dihydroergotamine / therapeutic use
  • Emergency Service, Hospital
  • Humans
  • Ketorolac
  • Migraine Disorders / drug therapy*
  • Sumatriptan / therapeutic use
  • Tension-Type Headache / drug therapy*
  • Tolmetin / analogs & derivatives
  • Tolmetin / therapeutic use


  • Analgesics
  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Antiemetics
  • Dihydroergotamine
  • Sumatriptan
  • Tolmetin
  • Ketorolac