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Chronic versus episodic migraine: The 15-day threshold does not adequately reflect substantial differences in disability across the full spectrum of headache frequency

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  • Ryotaro Ishii
  • Todd J Schwedt
  • Gina Dumkrieger
  • Nim Lalvani
  • Audrey Craven
  • Peter J Goadsby
  • Richard B Lipton
  • Jes Olesen
  • Stephen D Silberstein
  • Mark J Burish
  • David W Dodick
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OBJECTIVE: To evaluate whether the 15-day threshold of headache days per month adequately reflects substantial differences in disability across the full spectrum of migraine.

BACKGROUND: The monthly frequency of headache days defines migraine subtypes and has crucial implications for epidemiological and clinical research as well as access to care.

METHODS: The patients with migraine (N = 836) who participated in the American Registry for Migraine Research, which is a multicenter, longitudinal patient registry, between February 2016 and March 2020, were divided into four groups based on monthly headache frequency: Group 1 (0-7 headache days/month, n = 286), Group 2 (8-14 headache days/month, n = 180), Group 3 (15-23 headache days/month, n = 153), Group 4 (≥24 headache days/month, n = 217). Disability (MIDAS), Pain intensity (NRS), Work Productivity and Activity Impairment (WPAI), Pain Interference (PROMIS-PI), Patient Health Questionnaire-4 (PHQ-4), and General Anxiety Disorder-7 (GAD-7) scores were compared.

RESULTS: Mean (standard deviation [SD]) age was 46 (13) years (87.9% [735/836] female). The proportion of patients in each group was as follows: Group 1 (34.2% [286/836]), Group 2 (21.5% [180/836]), Group 3 (18.3% [153/836]), and Group 4 (26.0% [217/836]). There were significant relationships with increasing disability, lost productive time, and pain interference in higher headache frequency categories. There were no significant differences between Group 2 and Group 3 for most measures (NRS, all WPAI scores, PROMIS-PI, GAD-7, and PHQ-4), although MIDAS scores differed (median [interquartile range (IQR)]; 38 [20-58] vs. 55 [30-90], p < 0.001). Patients in Group 1 had significantly lower MIDAS (median [IQR];16 [7-30], p < 0.001), WPAI-% total active impairment (mean (SD): Group 1 [30.9 (26.8)] vs. Group 2 [39.2 (24.5), p = 0.017], vs. Group 3 [45.9 (24.1), p < 0.001], vs. Group 4 [55.3 (23.0), p < 0.001], and PROMIS-PI-T score (Group 1 [60.3 (7.3)] vs. Group 2 [62.6 (6.4), p = 0.008], vs. Group 3 [64.6 (5.6), p < 0.001], vs. Group 4 [66.8 (5.9), p < 0.001]) compared to all other groups. Patients in Group 4 had significantly higher MIDAS (median (IQR): Group 4 [90 (52-138)] vs. Group 1 [16 (7-30), p < 0.001], vs. Group 2 [38 (20-58), p < 0.001], vs. Group 3 [55 (30-90), p < 0.001], WPAI-%Presenteeism (Group 4 [50.4 (24.4)] vs. Group 1 [28.8 (24.9), p < 0.001], vs. Group 2 [34.9 (22.3), p < 0.001], vs. Group 3 [40.9 (22.3), p = 0.048], WPAI-% total work productivity impairment (Group 4 [55.9 (26.1)] vs. Group 1 [32.1 (37.6), p < 0.001], vs. Group 2 [38.3 (24.0), p < 0.001], vs. Group 3 [44.6 (24.4), p = 0.019]), and WPAI-%Total activity impairment (Group 4 [55.3 (23.0)] vs. Group 1 [30.9 (26.8), p < 0.001], vs. Group 2 [39.2 (24.5), p < 0.001], vs. Group 3 [45.9 (24.1), p = 0.025]) scores compared with all other groups.

CONCLUSION: Our data suggest that the use of a 15 headache day/month threshold to distinguish episodic and chronic migraine does not capture the burden of illness nor reflect the treatment needs of patients. These results have important implications for future refinements in the classification of migraine.

Original languageEnglish
JournalHeadache
Volume61
Issue number7
Pages (from-to)992-1003
Number of pages12
ISSN0017-8748
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2021

    Research areas

  • chronic migraine, diagnostic criteria, disability, headache frequency

ID: 66135662