STUDY OBJECTIVE: Migraine patients continue to report headache during the days and weeks after emergency department (ED) discharge. Dexamethasone is an evidence-based treatment of acute migraine that decreases the frequency of moderate or severe headache within 72 hours of ED discharge. We hypothesize that intramuscular methylprednisolone acetate, a long-acting steroid that remains biologically active for 14 days, will decrease the number of days with headache during the week after ED discharge by at least 1 day compared with intramuscular dexamethasone.
METHODS: We conducted a randomized, blinded clinical trial comparing intravenous metoclopramide at 10 mg+intramuscular dexamethasone at 10 mg with intravenous metoclopramide at 10 mg+intramuscular methylprednisolone acetate at a dose of 160 mg for patients presenting to 2 different EDs with moderate or severe migraine. Outcomes were assessed by telephone with a standardized instrument. The primary outcome was number of days with headache during the week after ED discharge. Secondary outcomes were complete freedom from headache, without the necessity of additional headache medication for the entire week after ED discharge, and medication preference, as determined by asking the patient whether he or she would want to receive the same medication again.
RESULTS: One hundred nine patients received dexamethasone and 111 received methylprednisolone acetate. We obtained primary outcome data from 101 dexamethasone patients and 106 methylprednisolone acetate patients. Dexamethasone patients reported 3.0 headache days and methylprednisolone acetate 3.3 headache days (95% confidence interval for rounded mean difference of 0.4 days: -0.4 to 1.1). Of 107 dexamethasone patients with analyzable data, 10 (9%) reported complete freedom from headache at 1 week versus 6 of 110 (5%) methylprednisolone acetate patients (95% confidence interval for difference of 4%: -3% to 11%). In the dexamethasone group, 76 of 101 (75%) patients would want the same medication again versus 75 of 106 (71%) of methylprednisolone acetate patients (95% confidence interval for difference of 4%: -8% to 17%). Other than injection site reactions, which were more common in the methylprednisolone acetate group, there were no substantial differences in frequency of adverse events.
CONCLUSION: Methylprednisolone acetate does not decrease the frequency of post-ED discharge headache days compared with dexamethasone. Most migraine patients are likely to continue to experience headache during the week after ED discharge.
This interesting but negative study failed to show extended corticosteroid efficacy by using a long-acting corticosteroid (methylprednisolone acetate) as compared to dexamethasone.
This is a very interesting study answering a difficult therapeutic question for patients with migraine. It is a useful article for all physicians working in emergency units.