Prevalence of migraine headache in children – adapted from BMJ, September 24, 1994

Prevalence of migraine headache in children – adapted from BMJ, September 24, 1994 – Tips from Other Journals

Migraine has been said to be the most common primary headache in children, but this belief remains controversial. Difficulties in study design and lack of agreement regarding diagnostic criteria have led to prevalence estimates ranging from 2.7 percent to 21 percent. Using criteria established by the International Headache Society, AbuArefeh and Russell conducted a community-based study in Scotland to estimate the prevalence of childhood migraine.

Parents of a 10 percent random sample of children between five and 15 years of age who attended public schools in a single city were asked to complete a five-question survey. Parents who indicated that their child suffered at least two severe headaches per year, not attributable to illness or trauma, were invited to participate in an interview and clinical assessment of their child.

Parents of 1,754 (81 percent) of the original sample of 2,165 children completed the questionnaire. Two-thirds of these children reported having headache during the previous year and, in 22 percent, headache interfered with normal activities. Overall, 159 children met the criteria for migraine, for a prevalence of 10.6 percent (range: 9.1 percent to 12.3 percent). The prevalence of migraine increased as age increased, from a rate of 3.4 percent at five years of age to a rate of 19.1 percent at 12 years of age. In children younger than 12 years of age, migraine was more common in boys; in older children, girls with migraine outnumbered boys by two to one. Migraine without aura was substantially more common than migraine with aura (prevalence: 7.8 percent and 2.8 percent, respectively).

Children who had migraine were absent from school approximately three days per year because of headache. Also, these children were absent from school for a significantly greater total number of days due to all illnesses, compared with children who did not have migraine (mean total number of days lost: 7.8 days versus 3.7 days).

The authors conclude that migraine is a common condition in children, with an estimated prevalence of 11 percent. The authors suggest that this study, in comparison with other studies conducted over the past 30 years, shows an increased prevalence of migraine among children. (BMJ, September 24, 1994, vol. 309, p. 765.)

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