IV Fluid Confers No Significant Treatment Effect on Migraine Pain

Intravenous (IV) saline fluid administration does not confer a clinically significant treatment effect on pain related to migraine headache, according to results of a pilot study published in the Annals of Emergency Medicine.

Patients age ≥18 who were admitted to an emergency department (ED) for migraine headache pain were randomly assigned to either receive 1 L of 1-hour IV-administered 0.9% normal saline solution (n=25) or a 1-hour 0.9% normal saline solution at 10 mL/hour as controls (n=24). At the start of fluid treatment, all patients received IV diphenhydramine and prochlorperazine.

Pain scores were assessed at baseline and at 60 minutes (end of treatment), 120 minutes, and 48 hours after treatment. The 10-point verbal pain rating scale was used to assess differences in self-reported pain between baseline and end of treatment. In addition, the researchers evaluated the rate of treatment completion, need for rescued medications, length of ED stay, and effectiveness of blinding.

Although both study groups demonstrated meaningful improvements in pain by 60 minutes, there was no difference in score improvement between the fluid group (4.5; 95% CI, 3.7-5.3) and the control group (4.9; 95% CI, 3.5-6.2). At the 120-minute mark, similar improvements in mean pain scores were also observed in the fluid (5.9; 95% CI, 4.8-7.1) and control groups (5.5; 95% CI, 4.1-6.8). Mean pain scores at 48 hours were 2.6 and 1.9 in the fluid and control groups, respectively. No difference was observed between the two groups with regard to ED length of stay.

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Limitations of the study included its small-scale pilot design and the recruitment of patients from only one center.

Although no between-group outcome differences were observed during this study, the researchers suggested that “the small sample size means that we have not ruled out either a clinically important treatment benefit or harm from intravenous fluids.”


Jones CW, Remboski LB, Freeze B, et al. Intravenous fluid for the treatment of emergency department patients with migraine headache: a randomized controlled trial [published online October 26, 2018]. Ann Emerg Med. doi:10.1016/j.annemergmed.2018.09.004