Analgesic Use and Chronic Renal Disease in Patients With Headache


M. Segasothy, Department of Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, Jalan Raja Muda Abdul Aziz, 50300 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia



The pattern of analgesic use, abuse and incidence of analgesic-associated nephropathy in 79 patients with chronic headache was studied. Sixty-eight of these patients had migraine. Most patients had consumed a combination of analgesics (81%) while 19% had taken single analgesics for their headache. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs were the most commonly used analgesics (96.2%) followed by paracetamol (70.9%) and aspirin, phenacetin and caffeine compounds (5.1%). Mefenamic acid was the commonest nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug consumed (97.4%). Analgesic abuse which was defined as a minimum total of I kg of analgesics such as paracetamol or aspirin, phenacetin and caffeine compounds or 400 capsules/tablets of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs was noted in 65 patients. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs were the most commonly abused analgesics (89.2%) followed by paracetamol (38.5%). Forty-five of the 65 analgesic abusers had an intravenous urogram or ultrasound performed and renal papillary necrosis was documented in one patient. Three (4.6%) of the analgesic abusers had mildly raised serum creatinine levels. Mild proteinuria of less than 1 gm/ litre was present in 27.7% of abusers. In conclusion, although analgesic use and abuse is common in patients with chronic headache, the short term incidence of analgesic-associated nephropathy (2.2%) and renal impairment (4.6%) was low. Prolonged observations will be necessary to ascertain the safety of these drugs for long term use.