Underdiagnosis and undertreatment of migraine in Italy: a survey of patients attending for the first time 10 headache centres


Professor Pietro Cortelli, Dipartimento di Scienze Neurologiche, Via U. Foscolo 7, 40123 Bologna, Italy. Tel. + 39-05-1209-2950, fax + 39-05-1209-2958, e-mail pietro.cortelli@unibo.it


Cevoli S, D'Amico D, Martelletti P, Valguarnera F, Del Bene E, De Simone R, Sarchielli P, Narbone MC, Testa L, Genco S, Bussone G & Cortelli P. Underdiagnosis and undertreatment of migraine in Italy: a survey of patients attending for the first time 10 headache centres. Cephalalgia 2009. London. ISSN 0333-1024

The aim of this study was to asses the clinical features, pattern of healthcare and drug utilization of migraine patients attending 10 Italian headache centres (HC). Migraine is underdiagnosed and undertreated everywhere throughout the world, despite its considerable burden. Migraine sufferers often deal with their problem alone using self-prescribing drugs, whereas triptans are used by a small proportion of patients. All patients attending for the first time 10 Italian HCs over a 3-month period were screened for migraine. Migraine patients underwent a structured direct interview about previous migraine diagnosis, comorbidity, headache treatments and their side-effects and healthcare utilization for migraine. Patient satisfaction with their usual therapy for the migraine attack was evaluated with the Migraine-Assessment of Current Therapy (ACT) questionnaire. The quality of life of migraine patients was assessed by mean of Short Form (SF)-12 and Migraine-Specific Quality of life (MSQ) version 2.1 questionnaires. Of the 2675 patients who attended HCs for the first time during the study period, 71% received a diagnosis of migraine and the first 953 subjects completed the study out of 1025 patients enrolled. Only 26.8% of migraine patients had a previous diagnosis of migraine; 62.4% of them visited their general practitioner (GP) in the last year, 38.2% saw a specialist for headache, 23% attended an Emergency Department and 4.5% were admitted to hospital for migraine; 82.8% of patients used non-specific drugs for migraine attacks, whereas 17.2% used triptans and only 4.8% used a preventive migraine medication. Triptans were used by 46.4% of patients with a previous diagnosis of migraine. About 80% of migraine patients took over-the-counter medications. The Migraine-ACT revealed that 60% of patients needed a change in their treatment of migraine attacks, 85% of whom took non-specific drugs. Both the MSQ version 2.1 and the SF-12 questionnaires indicated a poor quality of life of most patients. Migraine represents the prevalent headache diagnosis in Italian HCs. Migraine is still underdiagnosed in Italy and migraine patients receive a suboptimal medical approach in our country, despite the healthcare utilization of migraine subjects being noteworthy. A cooperative network involving GPs, neurologists and headache specialists is strongly desirable in order to improve long-term migraine management in Italy.