1. Jesani, Jennifer MSN, RN, FNP-BC, CEN
  2. Simerson, Darlie DNP, APRN, FNP-BC, CEN


Migraine headaches account for approximately 1.2 million emergency department (ED) visits annually. Despite the prevalence of this condition, there is little consensus on the best pharmacotherapeutic interventions to use in the ED setting. Guidelines published by the American Headache Society and the Canadian Headache Society offer some direction to ED providers but are not widely utilized. This article reviews the best evidence behind some of the medications frequently used to treat acute migraines in the ED setting, including dopamine receptor antagonists, serotonin receptor agonists, anti-inflammatory medications, opioids, magnesium, valproate, and propofol. The evaluation of patients presenting to the ED with an acute headache, the diagnostic criteria for migraines, and implications for advanced practice are also discussed.