The effectiveness of hospitalization in the treatment of paediatric idiopathic headache patients

G. Lanzi, S. D'Arrigo, C. Termine, M. Rossi, O. Ferrari-Ginevra, A. Mongelli, A. Millul, E. Beghi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Headache is a disease that has a high social impact in the paediatric as well as in the adult population, often resulting in a significant reduction in the young patient's quality of life, reflected primarily in a greater number of days off school and increasingly frequent recourse to symptomatic drugs. The idea for this study came from the clinical impression that some paediatric headache patients might benefit more from inpatient than outpatient care. Aim: The aim of our study was to compare the effectiveness of hospitalization to outpatient care of patients with newly diagnosed frequent and disabling headache. Methods: A pragmatic randomized open-label trial was conducted at the Child Neurology Clinic of the University of Pavia, Italy. Children and adolescents with a 2- to 6-month moderate-to-severe migraine or tension-type headache history were randomized to hospital admission or outpatient assessment and followed for 6 months. The efficacy of the two therapeutic strategies was measured by counting the number of responders in each arm. Other end points included the mean frequency and duration of attacks, the number of drug prescriptions taken to control pain, and the number of patients and physicians expressing satisfaction with treatment. Results: The study population included 27 girls and 23 boys aged 8 through 18 years with migraine (23 cases) or tension-type headache (27 cases). Compared to outpatient assessment, hospital admission was correlated to a significant increase in the number of responders: 0 vs. 44% (1 month), 0 vs. 68% (3 months), and 12 vs. 68% (6 months). The mean frequency and duration of attacks were significantly lower in hospitalized patients (p <0.0001). Hospitalization was correlated with a significant reduction of patients with severe headache (p <0.005), a reduction of drug use, and a higher number of satisfied patients and physicians (p <0.05). Logistic regression analysis confirmed the higher responder rate among hospitalized patients after adjusting for age, sex, diagnosis, and headache characteristics or admission. Conclusions: We think hospitalization reduces the emotional mechanisms that provoke stress in children and often induce or favour headache attacks. If these mechanisms can be interrupted, the management of disease may become easier and with enduring benefits.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-7
Number of pages7
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2006


  • Migraine
  • Tension-type headache

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Psychology(all)


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