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Characterising the premonitory stage of migraine in children: a clinic-based study of 100 patients in a specialist headache service

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

N. Karsan, P. Prabhakar, P.J. Goadsby

Original languageEnglish
Article number94
Number of pages7
JournalJournal Of Headache And Pain
Issue number1
Accepted/In press11 Oct 2016
Published1 Dec 2016


King's Authors


Background: The premonitory stage of migraine attacks, when symptomatology outside of pain can manifest hours to days before the onset of the headache, is well recognised. Such symptoms have been reported in adults in a number of studies, and have value in predicting an impending headache. These symptoms have not been extensively studied in children. We aimed to characterise which, if any, of these symptoms are reported in children seen within a Specialist Headache Service. Methods: We reviewed clinic letters from the initial consultation of children and adolescents seen within the Specialist Headache Service at Great Ormond Street Hospital between 1999 and 2015 with migraine in whom we had prospectively assessed clinical phenotype data. We randomly selected 100 cases with at least one premonitory symptom recorded in the letter. For these patients, the age at headache onset, presence of family history of headache, headache diagnosis, presence of episodic syndromes which may be associated with headache, developmental milestones, gestation at birth, mode of delivery and presence of premonitory symptoms occurring before or during headache were recorded. Results: Of the 100 patients selected, 65 % were female. The age range of the patients was 18 months to 15 years at the time of headache onset. The most common diagnosis was chronic migraine in 58 %, followed by episodic migraine (29 %), New Daily Persistent Headache with migrainous features (8 %) and hemiplegic migraine (5 %). A history of infantile colic was noted in 31 % and was the most common childhood episodic syndrome associated with migraine. The most common premonitory symptoms recorded were fatigue, mood change and neck stiffness. The commonest number of reported premonitory symptoms was two. Conclusion: Premonitory symptoms associated with migraine are reported in children as young as 18 months, with an overall clinical phenotype comparable to adults. Better documentation of this stage will aid parents and clinicians to better understand the phenotype of attacks, better recognise migraine and thus initiate appropriate management. Larger studies with a broader base are warranted to understand the extent and implications of these symptoms for childhood and adolescent migraine.

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