Primary headache is a common cause of pediatric emergency department (PED) visits. Without published guidelines to direct treatment options, various strategies lacking evidence are often employed. This study aims to standardize primary headache treatment in the PED by promoting evidence-based therapies, reducing nonstandard abortive therapies, and introducing dihydroergotamine (DHE) into practice.
A multidisciplinary team developed key drivers, created a clinical care algorithm, and updated electronic medical record order sets. Outcome measures included the percentage of patients receiving evidence-based therapies, nonstandard abortive therapies, DHE given after failed first-line therapies, and overall PED length of stay. Process measures included the percent of eligible patients with the order set usage and medications received within 90 minutes. Balancing measures included hospital admissions and returns to the PED within 72 hours. Annotated control charts depicted results over time.
We collected data from July 2017 to December 2019. The percent of patients receiving evidence-based therapies increased from 69% to 73%. The percent of patients receiving nonstandard abortive therapies decreased from 2.5% to 0.6%. The percent of patients receiving DHE after failed first-line therapies increased from 0% to 37.2%. No untoward effects on process or balancing measures occurred, with sustained improvement for 14 months.
Standardization efforts for patients with primary headaches led to improved use of evidence-based therapies and reduced nonstandard abortive therapies. This methodology also led to improved DHE use for migraine headache resistant to first-line therapies. We accomplished these results without increasing length of stay, admission, or return visits.

Copyright © 2021 the Author(s). Published by Wolters Kluwer Health, Inc.