Pediatric, adolescent migraine treatment and prevention guidelines are updated



Two new guidelines on the treatment and prevention of migraines in children and adolescents have been released by the American Academy of Neurology and the American Headache Society.

This update to the previous guidelines released by the American Academy of Neurology in 2004 reflects the expansion in pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic approaches during the last 15 years, Andrew D. Hershey, MD, PhD, director of the division of neurology at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and a fellow of the American Academy of Neurology, said in an interview.

“There has also been an increase in the number of randomized controlled studies, which have allowed for a more robust statement on acute and preventive treatments to be made,” said Dr. Hershey, who is also a senior author for both guidelines.

The two reports focused on separate issues: One guideline outlined the options for treatment of acute migraine, and the second guideline summarized the available studies on the effectiveness of preventive medications for migraine in children and adolescents.

The guidelines recommend a physical examination and history to establish a specific headache diagnosis and afford a treatment that provides fast and complete pain relief. Treatment should be initiated as soon as a patient realizes an attack is occurring. Patients with signs of secondary headache should be evaluated by a neurologist or a headache specialist.

Studies support the use of ibuprofen and acetaminophen for pain relief in cases of acute migraine, but only some triptans (such as almotriptan, rizatriptan, sumatriptan/naproxen, and zolmitriptan nasal spray) are approved for use in adolescents. Specifically, sumatriptan/naproxen was shown to be effective when compared with placebo in studies with adolescents, whose headache symptoms resolved within 2 hours.

It may be necessary to try more than one triptan, the guidelines noted, because patients respond differently to medications. A failure to respond to one triptan does not necessarily mean that treatment with another triptan will be unsuccessful.

The guidelines also focused on patient and family education to improve medication safety and adherence. Lifestyle modification, avoidance of migraine triggers, creating good sleep habits, and staying hydrated can help reduce migraines. While no medications improved associated symptoms of migraines such as nausea or vomiting, triptans did show a benefit in reducing phonophobia and photophobia.

Evidence for pharmacologic prevention of migraines in children and adolescents is limited, according to the guidelines. In the 15 studies included in a literature review, there was not sufficient evidence to show preventive treatments, such as divalproex, onabotulinumtoxinA, amitriptyline, nimodipine, and flunarizine, were more effective than placebo at reducing the frequency of headaches. There was some evidence to show propranolol in children and topiramate and cinnarizine in children and adolescents can reduce headache frequency. Children and adolescents who received cognitive-behavioral therapy together with amitriptyline were more likely to have reduced frequency of headaches than were those who received amitriptyline with patient education.

“The consensus conclusion was that a multidisciplinary approach that combines acute treatments, preventive treatments, and healthy habits is likely to have the best outcomes,” said Dr. Hershey.

Dr. Hershey acknowledged the many gaps between what is clinically observed and what the studies in the guidelines demonstrated.

“One of the biggest questions is how to minimize the expectation response in the controlled studies,” he said. “Additionally, we are moving toward a better recognition of the mechanism by which the various treatments work in a genetic-based disease that is polygenic in nature” with up to 38 different gene polymorphisms identified to date.

The guidelines also do not address newer treatments, such as calcitonin gene–related peptide (CGRP) antibodies, CGRP antagonists, serotonin antagonists, and devices because there are as yet no studies of their effectiveness in children and adolescents.

“They have been studied in adults, so will be prone to the expectation response; but given the large number of diverse therapies, one can hope that many of the gaps can be filled,” said Dr. Hershey.

The American Academy of Neurology provided funding for development of the guidelines and reimbursed authors who served as subcommittee members for travel expenses and in-person meetings. The authors reported personal and institutional relationships in the form of advisory board memberships, investigator appointments, speakers bureau positions, research support, grants, honorariums, consultancies, and publishing royalties for pharmaceutical companies and other organizations.

SOURCES: Oskoui M et al. Neurology. 2019 Aug 14. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000008095. Oskoui M et al. Neurology. 2019 Aug 14. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000008105.

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