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Cardiac Risk Factors and the Use of Triptans: A Survey Study

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Objective.—To describe current practice in triptan use.

Background.—Triptans are effective migraine treatments that cause chest symptoms in some patients. True cardiac ischemia is rare.

Design.—Headache specialists and family practitioners completed questionnaires regarding the times when triptans are contraindicated, obtaining electrocardiograms (ECGs), and giving the first dose in the office.

Results.—Sixty-five headache specialists and 67 family practitioners responded. Headache specialists saw an average of 36.3 patients with headache per week. Family practitioners saw an average of 7.2.

Family practitioners and headache specialists had similar opinions regarding the age at which triptans were contraindicated with various numbers of risk factors. Sixty-one percent of headache specialists and 50% of family practitioners would not use a triptan at any age for patients with more than three risk factors (P = NS). Ten percent of headache specialists obtained an ECG for all patients being prescribed triptans, while no family practitioners did (P = .008). Ten percent of both family practitioners and headache specialists never obtained an ECG, even with multiple cardiac risk factors. Headache specialists obtained ECGs more often than family practitioners (P < .002 for one to three risk factors). Family practitioners were more likely to give the first dose of the triptan in the office regardless of cardiovascular risk (58% versus 20%, P < .001). Forty-five percent of headache specialists and 2% of family practitioners never gave the first dose in the office (P < .001). Family practitioners gave the first dose in the office more readily than headache specialists in patients with no risk factors (P = .001), but not for one or more risk factors.

Conclusions.—No consensus exists among family practitioners or headache specialists about when to avoid using a triptan due to excessive cardiac risk factors, when to obtain an ECG prior to using a triptan, and when to give the first dose of a triptan in the office. Headache specialists are more likely to obtain ECGs, whereas family practitioners are more likely to give the first dose of a triptan in the office.
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Keywords: cardiac risk factors; dihydroergotamine; migraine; myocardial infarction; triptans

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: July 1, 2000

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