Pharmacotherapy for primary headache disorders in the emergency department

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U.S. Pharmacist


Headache disorders are one of the most common reasons that patients present to the emergency department (ED). For proper patient care, it is vital for the headache to be differentiated as a primary or secondary headache disorder. Primary headaches are more common than secondary headaches; however, secondary headaches are potentially life-threatening, whereas primary headaches possess straightforward treatment regimens and benign long-term outcomes. Classifying primary headaches as tension-type, cluster, or migraine headache with or without aura will guide pharmacotherapy selection in the ED setting. The pharmacist can impact the clinical management of headache disorders by providing effective medication counseling, ensuring that the medication regimen has the appropriate indication and route, and monitoring for adverse effects of treatment.

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