To investigate the number and characteristics of the Spanish population affected by headache disorders and the direct medical cost that these patients represent for the healthcare system.
A retrospective multicentre observational study.
Records from all patients admitted with headache in primary and secondary care centres in Spain between 2011 and 2016 that were registered in a Spanish claims database were included in the analysis. Direct medical costs were calculated using the standardised average expenses of medical procedures determined by the Spanish Ministry of Health.
Data extraction claimed primary care records from 636 722 patients and secondary care records from 30 077 patients. Women represented 63% and 65% of all patients with headache in primary and secondary care respectively, with the exception of cluster headaches, a group with 60% of male patients. No large shifts were observed over time in patients’ profile; contrarily, the number of cases per 10 000 patients attended in primary care increased 2-folds between 2011 and 2016 for migraine and 1.85-folds for other headaches. Migraine was the cause for 28% of primary care consultations and 50% of secondary care admissions, and it was responsible for the largest portion of healthcare costs in 2016, a total amount of € 7 302 718. The estimated annual direct medical cost of headache disorders was € 10 716 086.
Migraine was responsible for half of the secondary care admissions linked to headache disorders. The raise detected in the number of cases registered in primary care is likely to impact the direct medical costs associated to these disorders causing an increase in the total burden they represent for the Spanish National Healthcare System.

© Author(s) (or their employer(s)) 2020. Re-use permitted under CC BY-NC. No commercial re-use. See rights and permissions. Published by BMJ.