Abdominal migraine

Dr Daniel J Bell et al.

Abdominal migraine (AM) is a syndrome which presents as recurrent episodes of severe abdominal pain, coupled with vasomotor symptoms, nausea and emesis. Historically it has tended to be a pediatric diagnosis, but is now increasingly seen in adults. It is one of the functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGIDs) 1. Similar to the other FGIDs its pathogenesis remains unresolved despite extensive ongoing work.

Several research studies have established a range in prevalence from 0.4-4% 1. Studies suggest that the majority of children affected do not experience the condition into adulthood.

Diagnosis employs both the International Classification of Headache Disorders diagnostic criteria and Rome criteria.

Establishing the diagnosis requires at least two discrete episodes in a one-year period.

These episodes must consist of:

  1. paroxysmal episodes of intense, acute periumbilical pain that lasts for one hour or more
  2. intervening periods of usual health lasting weeks to months
  3. pain interferes with normal activities
  4. pain is associated with two of the following:
    • anorexia
    • nausea
    • vomiting
    • headache
    • photophobia
    • pallor
  5. no evidence of an inflammatory, anatomic, metabolic, or neoplastic process considered that explains the subject’s symptoms

No specific pathological diagnostic markers exist.

By definition (see above) all imaging of the GI system should be unremarkable. 

An ideal management framework remains to be established. Nevertheless the key initial step is to exclude serious underlying organic disease e.g. inflammatory bowel disease and malignancy. 

Symptomatic therapy, e.g. analgesics and antiemetics is useful.

The long term prognosis of abdominal migraine remains undetermined, however it is clear that affected children have an increased risk of developing 'classic' migrainous headaches.

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Article information

rID: 65891
Section: Syndromes
Tag: stub
Synonyms or Alternate Spellings:
  • Abdominal migraine (AM)

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