Conference Coverage

How do neurologists choose an acute treatment for migraine?



Addressing treatment failure

If a patient returns and reports that the current treatment is ineffective, the neurologist must reevaluate the therapy. A helpful way to conduct this reassessment is to administer the Migraine Treatment Optimization Questionnaire (MTOQ), which was developed by Lipton et al., to the patient. Neurologists ask whether the patient can function normally 2 hours after treatment or whether the medication is, for example, causing a side effect that makes this outcome less likely. Other questions for the patient are whether the headache pain disappears within 2 hours and whether the medication provides consistent relief. Finally, the neurologist can ask whether the patient is comfortable taking the medication. A score lower than 2 on the MTOQ indicates that the acute treatment should be changed, said Dr. Nye.

Gastroparesis is common during migraine attacks. It is inadvisable to give an oral medication to a patient who vomits within 20 minutes of attack onset, said Dr. Nye. “It’s a little less intuitive for those people who are nauseous immediately to think that that oral tablet is probably going to sit in their stomach and not get absorbed in the intestines as intended.” Nasal sprays, injectable medicines, and oral dissolving tablets are appropriate options for patients with gastroparesis.

Treating migraine during pregnancy

Special consideration must be given to treatment when the patient is pregnant. Decreased headache frequency is common in pregnancy, but not universal. Occipital nerve blocks are a good option for prevention and acute management in pregnant patients. They may be administered every 2 weeks. Sphenopalatine ganglion nerve block is another option, and it can be administered several times per week. Data “suggest that stacking the injections 2 or 3 days per week for up to 6 weeks can eliminate headaches for up to 6 months,” said Dr. Nye.

Tylenol is appropriate for acute headache in pregnant patients, “but we do warn about medication overuse headache and limiting its use.” Ondansetron and promethazine are acceptable treatments for nausea. Although ondansetron has less central activity than promethazine, and thus does not reduce the headache, it lessens nausea, said Dr. Nye.

Triptan exposure during the first trimester is not significantly associated with major congenital malformations, which is reassuring, given that many patients take triptans before they realize that they are pregnant. During the second and third trimesters, triptan exposure is significantly associated with atonic uterus and increased blood loss during labor. In a 16-year registry, sumatriptan, naratriptan, and treximet were not associated with teratogenicity.

Nonpharmacological treatments, too, may help pregnant patients. Lifestyle management, including a regular sleep schedule, exercise routine, and diet, can be beneficial. Massage therapy may reduce stress, and cognitive-behavioral therapy and biofeedback are additional options. Behavioral therapy, however, should be initiated before the patient plans the pregnancy, said Dr. Nye. These therapies require training that a patient having an exacerbation of migraine is less likely to have the motivation to begin.

Many medications are transferred to infants through breast milk. The American Pediatric Association considers a relative infant dosing of less than 10% to be safe. A clinician or patient can look up a medication on websites such as LactMed to understand the relative infant dose and possible effects. Another helpful reference is Medications and Mothers’ Milk, said Dr. Nye. Acetaminophen, steroids, ibuprofen, riboflavin, indomethacin, ketorolac, and naproxen are generally safe during lactation. “Eletriptan is the triptan that’s least likely to be in the breast milk,” said Dr. Nye. Aspirin, atenolol, ergotamine, and lithium, however, should be given with caution. The safety of amitriptyline, nortriptyline, and SSRIs during lactation is unknown.

Dr. Nye is on advisory boards for Alder, Allergan, Biohaven, electroCore, Pernix, and Xoc.

Next Article: