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Women Look to Hospitals for Headache Relief

Over 3 million Americans went to hospital emergency departments (EDs) for headache relief—with 81,000 inpatient stays—during 2008, according to the recent News and Number from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality.


Highlights from the report include:


-Migraines were the most common type of headache associated with inpatient stays, comprising 63.1 percent of all hospital stays with headache as a first-listed diagnosis.


-Nearly 3 out of 4 headache-related ED visits and inpatient stays were for females. For migraine, specifically, rates of ED visits were 4.6 times higher among females than males and rates of inpatient stays were 3.7 times higher for females.


-The highest rate of ED visits for first-listed diagnosis of headache was in the 18 to 44 year age group, with 1,626 visits per 100,000 population. The rate of inpatient stays with headache as a first-listed diagnosis was significantly higher in the 18 to 44 and 45 to 64 year age groups (32.6 and 35.7 per 100,000 population, respectively) than other age groups.


-ED visits were higher in rural areas and among patients in the lowest income quartile, where the rate of ED visits was 2.3 times higher than in the wealthiest communities. There were no differences in headache hospitalization rates by rural/urban location and income.


-The West had the lowest rate of ED visits and hospitalizations for headache. ED visits were also lower in the Northeast compared to the South and Midwest, but hospitalization rates for the Northeast were the highest of all regions.


-Hospitalizations for headache tended to be shorter (2.7 days) compared to the overall average hospital stay of 4.6 days. Similarly, the average cost per headache stay was less than the average cost of an inpatient stay ($5,000 vs. $9,200), although costs per day were comparable ($1,900 per day for headache stays and $2,000 for all stays).



The Female Patient Editor-in-Chief Ronald T. Burkman, MD, covers this topic in his latest Q-Cast, "Headaches and The Female Patient." Click here to watch the video.


To read the QHRQ report, visit


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