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Essential components of care in a multidisciplinary headache center: Perspectives from headache neurology specialists.

Goldman RE, Damush TM, Kuruvilla DE, Lindsey H, Baird S, Riley S, Burrone Bs L, Grinberg AS, Seng EK, Fenton BT, Sico JJ. Essential components of care in a multidisciplinary headache center: Perspectives from headache neurology specialists. Headache. 2022 Mar 16; 62(3):306-318.

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BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVE: Comprehensive headache care involves numerous specialties and components that have not been well documented or standardized. This study aimed to elicit best practices and characterize important elements of care to be provided in multidisciplinary headache centers. METHODS: Qualitative, semi-structured telephone interviews with a purposive sample of headache neurology specialists from across the US, using open-ended questions. Interviews were recorded, transcribed, and coded. Coded data were further analyzed using immersion/crystallization techniques for final interpretation. RESULTS: Mean years providing headache care was 17.7 (SD  =  10.6). Twelve of the 13 participants held United Council for Neurologic Subspecialties headache certification. Six described their practice site as providing multidisciplinary headache care. Participants explained most of their patients had seen multiple doctors over many years, and had tried numerous unsuccessful treatments. They noted patients with chronic headache frequently present with comorbidities and become stigmatized. All participants asserted successful care depends on taking time to talk with and listen to patients, gain understanding, and earn trust. All participants believed multidisciplinary care is essential within a comprehensive headache center, along with staffing enough headache specialists, implementing detailed headache intake and follow-up protocols, and providing the newest medications, neuromodulation devices, botulinum toxin injections, monoclonal antibodies, nerve blocks and infusions, and treatment from a health psychologist. Other essential services for a headache center are other behavioral health practitioners providing cognitive behavioral therapy, mindfulness, biofeedback and pain management; and autonomic neurology, neuropsychology, vestibular audiology, sleep medicine, physical therapy, occupational therapy, exercise physiology, speech therapy, nutrition, complementary integrative health modalities, and highly trained support staff. CONCLUSION: While headache neurology specialists form the backbone of headache care, experts interviewed for this study maintained their specialty is just one of many types of care needed to adequately treat patients with chronic headache, and this is best provided in a comprehensive, multidisciplinary center.

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