This article reviews treatment options for patients presenting with headache in the emergency department (ED) and for inpatients, including red flags and status migrainosus (SM).
Most patients presenting with headache in the ED will have migraine, but red flags must be reviewed to rule out secondary headaches. SM refractory to home treatment is a common reason for ED presentation or inpatient admission, but high-quality treatment evidence is lacking. Common treatments include intravenous fluids, anti-dopaminergic agents with diphenhydramine, steroids, divalproex, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, intravenous dihydroergotamine, and nerve blocks. Other therapies (e.g., ketamine and lidocaine) are used with limited or inconsistent evidence. There is evidence for inpatient behavioral management therapy. This article details red flags to review in the workup of headache presentation in the ED and provides a step-wise approach to ED and inpatient management. However, more studies are needed to better optimize care.