Real need for headache services and their resource consumption: a retrospective observational study
on a cohort in Cantabria
Introduction. Headache services arise out of a need to improve care for patients with different types of headache; however, some important aspects of clinical management that demonstrate their efficiency remain unknown.
Aim. To estimate the need for headache services in our area.
Patients and methods. We conducted a retrospective study in two phases: identification of the first visits due to headache during three consecutive months and collection of care data during one year. The care criteria in headache services considered were: chronic migraine, rare headaches, need for special techniques and headaches with poor therapeutic response.
Results. Of the 1,418 first visits, in 298 cases (20.38%) the reason for seeking medical attention was headache. Of these, 82.9% were from primary care. The distribution of the diagnoses was: 54%, migraine; 11%, tension-type headache; and 35%, other headaches. Altogether 108 patients met the criteria for referral to headache services: 63 for chronic migraine; 13 for nerve blocks; 9 for frequent migraine; 8 for trigeminal-autonomic cephalgias; 5 due to a need for botulinum toxin; and 10 for other reasons. The patients attended by headache services went to the emergency department less often than those who visited the general outpatient department, had fewer brain scans and more botulinum toxin was indicated.
Conclusion. Headache services are justified because they offer better management of patients with the most severe variants of headache. In our country, at least two visits a week are needed to cover an area of 350,000 users of the Spanish National Health System.
Key words. Chronic migraine. Clinical management. Headache service.