Campus News

Migraine study may improve care in and outside of emergency rooms

Migraines sufferers want relief fast. The debilitating effects of a migraine can seriously impair quality of life, disrupting work and family time. If patients have been properly diagnosed by their primary care physicians, they probably have appropriate medication on hand. If not, they may head to the nearest hospital emergency room and that could become a problem.

Jackie Kwong, assistant professor at UGA’s College of Pharmacy, has undertaken a study that looks at the continuity of care for migraine patients following these emergency room visits.

“Headache is the sixth most common reason for going to an emergency room,” Kwong said. “Of the 28 million people in this country who suffer from migraines, fewer than 50 percent have been diagnosed by a physician. Many sufferers try to treat their migraines with ineffective over-the-counter products.”

Many good medications for migraines, such as triptanes, have become available in the past 10 years, but emergency room physicians occasionally misdiagnose the condition and instead prescribe barbiturates or narcotics for the pain, according to Kwong. With funding from the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of American Foundation and the UGA Research Foundation, Kwong will analyze data on Georgia Medicaid patients who visit emergency rooms for headaches.

“This is a good population to study for several reasons. The patients tend to be low-income and therefore may be without a primary care physician,” said Kwong, who had nine years experience of studying migraine outcomes research with Glaxo SmithKline prior to coming to UGA. “Many are also single mothers, and migraines tend to be hormone-related, occurring most frequently in women between the ages of 25 and 40.”