Family Perspectives on Visiting the Pediatric Emergency Department for Migraine: A Qualitative Study

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The aim of this study was to explore the perspectives of families regarding their expectations and experience of visiting the emergency department (ED) for migraine.


This was a qualitative study involving the families of 25 patients aged 10 to 18 years receiving ED care for acute migraine. Following their visit, independent semistructured telephone interviews were conducted with both the patient and parent or guardian. Questions were designed to explore factors pertaining to the family's perspective regarding their visit to the ED and expectations for the ED visit.


Families reported a variety of reasons for visiting the ED. The majority of participants reported that they were worried about their headaches. Families more commonly had expectations for treatment than they did for investigations. As compared with patients, parents more commonly reported specific expectations for investigations and less commonly expressed concerns about intravenous treatments. Expectations for treatment efficacy varied: whereas some parents expected complete pain relief, for others, lesser degrees of relief were considered satisfactory. The experience of treatment efficacy was related to willingness to receive the same treatment again.


Given that a high frequency of families endorsed that they were worried about the headache when presenting to the ED, clinicians should strive to make a diagnosis of migraine in the ED setting and to educate families about this diagnosis. Because of divergent parent and patient perspectives, health care providers should inquire about family expectations, especially in relation to expectations for investigations and concerns surrounding intravenous interventions, and ensure that both the patient's and parent's perspectives are considered when developing a management plan for pediatric migraine.

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