Treating primary headaches in the ED: Can droperidol regain its role?

Brett Faine*, Christopher Hogrefe, Jon Van Heukelom, Jamie Smelser

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Objective: The aim of this study was to describe the use and efficacy of low-dose (≤2 mg) droperidol for the treatment of primary headaches (ie, migraine, cluster, tension-type headache and trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias, and other primary headaches) in the emergency department (ED). Methods: A report was generated from a pharmacy database to identify all adult patients who received low-dose droperidol in the ED over a 7-month period; a subsequent retrospective chart review was conducted. Low-dose droperidol was defined as a cumulative dose of ≤2 mg. Patients who received droperidol for any other reason than the treatment of a headache were excluded. Data were analyzed descriptively. Results: Seventy-three cases in which droperidol was administered for the treatment of a headache were identified over the 7-month period. Most doses (92%) administered were 1.25 mg or less. Fifty-three patients (73%) had complete resolution or significant improvement of headache symptoms as subjectively or objectively (eg, numerical pain scale) documented by the treating physician. Eight patients (11%) had minimal improvement in their headaches symptoms; 12 patients (16%) received no relief after the administration of droperidol. The average time to discharge from the ED was 94.8 ± 67.2 minutes. No cardiac arrhythmias were noted. Other adverse events included 2 cases of extrapyramidal side effects; one patient reported restlessness/anxiousness and the other patient had dystonia. Conclusion: The administration of low-dose (≤2 mg) droperidol may be safe and effective for the treatment of primary headaches in the ED.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1255-1262
Number of pages8
JournalAmerican Journal of Emergency Medicine
Issue number7
StatePublished - Sep 2012

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine


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