Article| Volume 24, ISSUE 6, P372-377, November 2010

Recognizing and Diagnosing Abdominal Migraines

Published:February 05, 2010DOI:


      Abdominal migraine affects 1% to 4% of children and is a variant of migraine headaches. Onset is seen most often between the ages of 7 to 12 years, with girls affected more often than boys. Presenting symptoms include acute incapacitating non-colicky periumbilical abdominal pain that lasts for 1 or more hours. Pallor, anorexia, nausea, vomiting, photophobia, or headache may be associated with the episodes, and a family history of migraine headaches often is noted. The diagnostic process begins with a thorough history and physical examination and often follows a series of exclusions or elimination of other organic causes. Limited research exists regarding treatment options, but they may include pharmacologic intervention and prevention based on lifestyle modifications.

      Key Words

      To read this article in full you will need to make a payment

      Purchase one-time access:

      Academic & Personal: 24 hour online accessCorporate R&D Professionals: 24 hour online access
      One-time access price info
      • For academic or personal research use, select 'Academic and Personal'
      • For corporate R&D use, select 'Corporate R&D Professionals'


      Subscribe to Journal of Pediatric Health Care
      Already a print subscriber? Claim online access
      Already an online subscriber? Sign in
      Institutional Access: Sign in to ScienceDirect


        • Abu-Arafeh I.
        • Russell G.
        Childhood headache.
        Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, MA2002
        • Ahonen K.
        • Hamalainen M.L.
        • Rantala H.
        • Hoppu K.
        Nasal sumatriptan is effective in the treatment of migraine attacks in children.
        Neurology. 2004; 62: 883-887
        • Al-Twaijri W.A.
        • Shevell M.I.
        Pediatric migraine equivalents: Occurrence and clinical features in practice.
        Pediatric Neurology. 2002; 26: 365-368
        • Bentley D.
        • Kehely A.
        • Al-Bayaty M.
        • Michie C.A.
        Abdominal migraine as a cause of vomiting in children: A clinician's view.
        Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition. 1995; 21: S49-S51
        • Brams W.A.
        Abdominal migraine.
        Journal of the American Medical Association. 1922; 78: 26-27
        • Catto-Smith A.G.
        • Ranuh R.
        Abdominal migraine and cyclical vomiting.
        Seminars in Pediatric Surgery. 2003; 12: 254-258
        • Collins B.S.
        • Thomas D.W.
        Chronic abdominal pain.
        Pediatrics in Review. 2007; 28: 323-331
        • Diamond S.
        An approach to the patient with abdominal migraine. (Headache of the month).
        Consultant. 2002; 42: 1314-1319
        • Dignan F.
        • Abu-Arafeh I.
        • Russell G.
        The prognosis of childhood abdominal migraine.
        Archives of Disease in Childhood. 2001; 84: 415-418
        • Franklin A.W.
        Periodic disorders of children.
        Lancet. 1952; ii: 1267-1270
      1. Headache Classification Subcommittee of the International Headache Society. (2004). Classification and diagnostic criteria for headache disorders, cranial neuralgias, and facial pain. (2nd ed.) Cephalalgia, 24(Suppl. 1), 1–160.

        • Lewis D.
        • Ashwal S.
        • Hershey A.
        • Hirtz D.
        • Yonker M.
        • Silberstein S.
        Practice parameters: Pharmacological treatment of migraine headache in children and adolescents: Report of the American Academy of Neurology Quality Standards Subcommittee and the Practice Committee of the Child Neurology Society.
        Neurology. 2004; 63: 2215-2224
        • Lewis D.W.
        • Yonker M.
        • Winner P.
        • Sowell M.
        The treatment of pediatric migraine.
        Pediatric Annals. 2005; 34: 448-460
        • Lewis D.W.
        Pediatric migraine.
        Pediatrics in Review. 2007; 28: 43-53
        • Lewis D.W.
        Pediatric migraine.
        Neurologic Clinics. 2009; 27: 481-501
        • Major P.
        • Grubisa H.
        • Thie N.
        Triptans for the treatment of acute pediatric migraine: A systematic literature review.
        Pediatric Neurology. 2003; 29: 425-429
        • Pareek N.
        • Fleisher D.
        • Abell T.
        Cyclic vomiting syndrome: what a gastroenterologist needs to know.
        American Journal of Gastroenterology. 2007; 102: 2832-2840
        • Rasquin A.
        • Di Lorenzo C.
        • Forbes D.
        • Guiraldes E.
        • Hyams J.S.
        • Staiano A.
        • Walker L.S.
        Childhood functional gastrointestinal disorders: Child/adolescent.
        Gastroenterology. 2006; 130: 1527-1537
        • Russell G.
        • Abu-Arafeh I.
        • Symon D.N.K.
        Abdominal migraine: Evidence for existence and treatment options.
        Pediatric Drugs. 2002; 4: 1-8
        • Russell G.
        • Symon D.N.K.
        • Abu-Arafeh I.
        The child with recurrent abdominal pain: Is it abdominal migraine?.
        British Journal of Hospital Medicine. 2007; 68: M110-M113
        • Shah U.H.
        • Kalra V.
        Pediatric migraine.
        International Journal of Pediatrics. 2009; 2009: 1-7
        • Stickler G.B.
        Relationship between cyclic vomiting syndrome and migraine.
        Clinical Pediatrics. 2005; 44: 505-508
        • Tan V.
        • Sahami A.R.
        • Peebles R.
        • Shaw R.J.
        Abdominal migraine and treatment with intravenous valproic acid.
        Psychosomatics. 2006; 47: 353-355
        • Uberall M.
        Sumatriptan in paediatric and adolescent migraine.
        Cephalalgia. 2001; 24: 210-224
        • Weydert J.A.
        • Ball T.M.
        • Davis M.F.
        Systematic review of treatments for recurrent abdominal pain.
        Pediatrics. 2003; 111: e1-e11
        • Winner P.
        • Rothner A.D.
        • Saper J.
        • Nett R.
        • Asgharnejad M.
        • Laurenza R.A.
        A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of sumatriptan nasal spray in the treatment of acute migraine in adolescents.
        Pediatrics. 2000; 105: 989-997


      Debbie M. Popovich, Assistant Professor, University of Florida College of Nursing, Gainesville, FL.


      Denise M. Schentrup, Clinical Assistant Professor, University of Florida College of Nursing, Gainesville, FL.


      Allison L. McAlhany, Clinical Assistant Professor, University of Florida College of Nursing, Gainesville, FL.