Study objective: Multiple parenteral medications are used to treat migraine and other acute primary headaches in the emergency department (ED). Regardless of specific headache diagnosis, no medication eliminates the frequent recurrence of primary headache after ED discharge. It is uncertain which medication primary headache patients should be given on discharge from an ED. The aim of this study is to compare the efficacy of oral sumatriptan with naproxen for treatment of post-ED recurrent primary headache. Methods: This was a randomized, double-blind efficacy trial. We randomized patients to either naproxen 500 mg or sumatriptan 100 mg for headache recurrence after ED discharge. Patients were eligible if they received parenteral therapy for an acute exacerbation of a primary headache in the ED. Patients who met established criteria for migraine without aura were designated a priori as a homogenous subgroup of interest. We followed all patients by telephone 48 hours after ED discharge. The primary endpoint was the between-group difference in change in pain intensity during the 2-hour period after ingestion of either 500 mg naproxen or 100 mg sumatriptan. This difference was measured on a validated 11-point (0 to 10) verbal numeric rating scale (NRS). Satisfaction with the medication and adverse effects were also assessed. Patients who met criteria for migraine without aura were analyzed twice according to a priori design: once as a homogenous subgroup and then again combined with all other primary headaches. Results: Of 410 patients randomized, 383 (93%) had outcome data available for analysis. Two hundred eighty (73%; 95% confidence interval [CI] 68% to 77%) reported headache post-ED discharge and 196 (51%; 95% CI 44% to 58%), including 88 with migraine, took the investigational medication provided to them. The naproxen group improved by a mean of 4.3 NRS points, whereas the sumatriptan group improved by 4.1 points (95% CI for difference of 0.2 points: -0.7 to 1.1 points). Findings were virtually identical among the migraine subset (4.3 versus 4.2 NRS points; 95% CI for difference of 0.1 points: -1.3 to 1.5 points). Seventy-one percent (95% CI 62% to 80%) of naproxen patients and 75% (95% CI 66% to 84%) of sumatriptan patients would want to take the same medication the next time. Adverse effect profiles were also comparable. Conclusion: In this trial, nearly three quarters of patients reported headache recurrence within 48 hours of ED discharge. Naproxen 500 mg and sumatriptan 100 mg taken orally relieve post-ED recurrent primary headache and migraine comparably. Clinicians should be guided by medication costs, contraindications, and a patient's previous experience with the medication.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Emergency Medicine