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Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas

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Outpatient and Inpatient Headache Treatment 

For many people, outpatient headache management is achieved through medication. There are two categories of headache medication: abortive and prophylactic.

Migraine Trigger Management

Trigger management is key to preventing a migraine attack. Trigger factors are those circumstances or influences that can cause a migraine headache. Trigger factors vary from person to person; if recognized and avoided, a person may prevent a migraine from developing.

Examples of triggers include changes in weather or air-pressure, bright sunlight or glare, fluorescent lights, chemical fumes, menstrual cycles, and certain foods and food products, such as processed meats, red wine, beer, dried fish, fermented cheeses, aspartame and MSG.

Preventive or Prophylactic Medication Therapy

Prophylactic drugs are taken daily to prevent headaches. They may be prescribed for people who experience frequent severe headaches, usually two or more per month. These drugs may be taken until a person’s headaches are under control. Generally, the lowest effective dose is used for the shortest period possible. Examples of prophylactic drugs are anti-depressants, beta blocker and calcium-channel blockers.

Many people who take preventive or prophylactic medications will also need to take attack-aborting medications to relieve pain and other symptoms.

Abortive Medication Therapy

Attack-aborting medications can relieve the severity and/or the duration of migraine headaches and their related symptoms. In general, most attack-aborting medication should be taken as early as possible in an attack.

Many people who experience migraines or other severe headaches can recognize their early symptoms, allowing them to intervene early with the attack-aborting medication. This may allow them to avoid a more severe, prolonged episode. Attack-aborting medications include cerebral vascoconstrictor abortive agents and non-vasoconstrictive abortive agents.

Inpatient Treatment

The Headache Center also offers a multispecialty inpatient hospital program staffed by specially trained professionals knowledgeable in the treatment of headache patients.

Inpatient hospital treatment may be necessary for a selected group of people who experience headaches that have not benefited from traditional outpatient care.

Inpatient care may be required for people with:

  • intractable daily headaches associated with significant disability
  • acute headaches that have been resistant to all therapeutic interventions
  • headaches cause continuous vomiting resulting in dehydration, weakness or exhaustion
  • related medical conditions that must be urgently addressed.