Urgent care centers may not use optimal medications for the management of acute migraine attacks, according to a study published in the March issue of Headache. Pain and nausea or vomiting associated with migraine may go undertreated, and treatment may not be consistent with American Headache Society (AHS) guidelines for EDs, said Mia T. Minen, MD, of the department of neurology and population health at NYU Langone Health in New York and colleagues.

“Our study findings raise the question as to whether the patients with migraine in the urgent care setting should be managed similarly to the ED, and whether the AHS guidelines for the ED should be revisited and applied to urgent care,” the researchers noted.

Relative to the ED, urgent care centers may provide cost savings and emerge “as a preferred place for treatment for people with migraine, perhaps as they are potentially more quiet medical settings where people with migraine might expeditiously receive care,” the authors said.

Dr. Minen and colleagues conducted a retrospective chart review to assess migraine management at two urgent care centers in New York. They examined the number of urgent care visits for migraine, treatments used, and how closely clinicians followed the AHS recommendations for administration of antiemetic medication and triptans, among other outcomes.

The study population included adults diagnosed with migraine at the NYU Langone Medhattan Urgent Care center between Dec. 1, 2015, and Dec. 1, 2018, or at the NYU Langone Ambulatory Care Urgent Care West Side center between May 1, 2017, and Dec. 1, 2018. Of more than 32,000 urgent care visits during the study period, 78 patients received a migraine diagnosis. Patients with migraine had an average age of 32.5 years, and 79.5% were female. More than half had a documented history of migraine. Two of the patients (2.6%) had been to an emergency department for headache or migraine.

Less than half of the patients who presented with pain (46.6%) were given medication, most commonly ketorolac injection. Most patients (78.2%) received prescriptions, and 25.6% received a triptan prescription. About 60% of patients were told to follow up with a neurologist. In addition, 11.5% revisited urgent care with a migraine or headache or to request a prescription refill.

“Patients in this study appeared to be using the urgent care centers specifically for acute care,” the researchers said. “The patients generally had infrequent headaches and the majority would not have qualified for migraine preventive treatment.”

Although AHS guidelines include three “should offer” medications for acute management of migraine in the ED – intravenous metoclopramide, intravenous prochlorperazine, and subcutaneous sumatriptan – two of the medications, subcutaneous sumatriptan and intravenous prochlorperazine, were not available in the urgent care pharmacy. “Of the level B migraine medications, only metoclopramide IV was in the pharmacy, and only 12.3% was given this at their urgent care visit,” the researchers said. “There was also likely undertreatment of nausea/vomiting; despite 39 patients with recorded nausea or vomiting with their migraine, less than half (46.2%) received an antiemetic at the visit,” including metoclopramide or ondansetron through oral or intravenous administration.

Future studies should look at headache and migraine visits at urgent care centers across the United States, the investigators suggested.

One of the authors of the study (Leslie Miller, MD) is the head of the NYU Langone Health Urgent Care Centers. Dr. Minen has received grant support, honoraria, or travel funds from the National Institutes of Health, the American Academy of Neurology, the American Brain Foundation, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the National Headache Foundation, the American Headache Society, Barnard College, and NYU. Dr. Minen is associate editor of Headache.

SOURCE: Minen MT et al. Headache. 2020;60(3):542-52.