Inpatient Treatment of Headache: An Evidence-Based Assessment

Frederick G. Freitag, Al Lake, Richard Lipton, Roger Cady

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


Objective. - To evaluate inpatient treatment of headache in the United States. Participants. - Participants were selected by the meeting chairpersons, Drs. Diamond and Silberstein as well as Dr. Freitag. Criteria for selection included participation in an inpatient treatment program, headache specialists not affiliated with an inpatient treatment program, clinician with interest in headache but not affiliated with a dedicated headache treatment program. The single meeting held in New York was by invitation only. All invitees were provided with opportunity to present their views and participate in the recommendations of the Consortium. The list of participants at the meeting were: Harvey Blumenthal, MD, Roger Cady, MD, James Couch, MD, Seymour Diamond, MD, Frederick G. Freitag, DO, R. Michael Gallagher, DO, Al Lake III, PhD, Richard Lipton, MD, Ninan Mathew, MD, Alan Rapoport, MD, Jay Rosenberg, MD, Joel Saper, MD, Stephen Silberstein, MD. Funding for the project was provided by the US Headache Guidelines Consortium Project through the American Academy of Neurology and the National Headache Foundation. Evidence. - Each of the authors were part of the writing committee each with specific areas that they were responsible for conducting the literature reviews and submitting a portion of the original document for editing and review. Dr. Freitag coordinated this process and assembled the first draft of the article for circulation and review among the authors and chairpersons. In the absence of class I evidence consensus expert opinion was fundamental to the process. Conclusions. - The treatment of headache is commonly delivered in the outpatient office environment. There exists a group of patients who have been refractive to outpatient treatment and in whom in patient care may be appropriate. The factors that determine the optimal treatment setting, the methodology of the treatment and the results of such treatment have come under increasing scrutiny secondary to the cost of treatment in the hospital. The US Headache Consortium guidelines project in conjunction with the national headache foundation believed that the need existed to objectively examine the issues surrounding inpatient treatment. The epidemiology of chronic headache is important to understand in this context since essentially all patients that are treated in hospital have high frequency headache often associated with significant disability. This severity of illness produces both health care costs but also is responsible for significant impact on businesses and the economy. The method of treatment of headache in the hospital environment can follow several paths based on the accessibility of the resources specific to headache treatment. While there exist these differing paths of treatment only treatment in a dedicated headache treatment unit has been investigated in depth here in the US though reports from other countries that do not have dedicated inpatient treatment lends support to options in headache treatment. Some have suggested that inpatient treatment is not required even in recidivist patients and limited reports have examined aggressive outpatient treatment as an option in headache management. None of the studies reported to date provide class one evidence for efficacy either inpatient or outpatient. Recommendations are made to assess headache treatment in patients with high frequency headaches to garner better scientific evidence for differing treatment approaches.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)342-360
Number of pages19
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2004


  • CDH chronic daily headache
  • CM chronic migraine
  • CTTH chronic tension-type headache
  • Chronic headache
  • FHs frequent headaches
  • MOH medication overuse headache
  • TM transformed migraine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neurology
  • Clinical Neurology


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