Visits to Pediatric Emergency Departments for Headaches Are Increasing, Children’s Hospital Research Shows

October 21, 2016

Research shows that the pediatric emergency department at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC is seeing a steady increase in the number of children with headaches. The findings will be presented today at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference & Exhibition in San Francisco.

Researchers from Children’s Hospital examined the electronic medical record of patients ages 4 to 20 visiting the Emergency Department at Children’s over a 7-year period from 2007 to 2014.

During this time, pediatric emergency department visits for headaches doubled from 2 percent to more than 4 percent. In addition, the admission rate for children with headaches more than doubled from 10 percent of headache visits in 2007 to nearly 25 percent in 2014. Females also were more likely to be admitted for headache pain than males.

“The results are intriguing because this is the first study to report a current trend in pediatric headache visits and to characterize pediatric patients with headache within a pediatric emergency department,” said Michelle Perry, M.D., study author and pediatric resident at Children's Hospital.

“Our study confirms that headaches are an increasingly common reason for children to be admitted to our hospital, in accordance with national trends,” said Regina Toto, M.D., study co-author and pediatric chief resident at Children's Hospital. “Despite more patients receiving pharmacologic treatment, more and more children with headaches are being hospitalized. The reasons why remain unclear to us and represent a key next step in pediatric headache research.”

Moving forward, the research team hopes to determine why this is occurring and how clinicians can more effectively treat patients with headaches in both emergency departments and outpatient settings to avoid hospital admissions whenever possible.