How Well Do Headache Patients Remember? a Comparison of Self-Report Measures of Headache Frequency and Severity in Patients With Migraine

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Objective. - To compare patient recall of migraine headache frequency and severity over 4 weeks prior to a return visit as reported in an interval questionnaire vs a daily diary. Background. - Many therapeutic decisions in the management of migraine patients are based on patient recall of response to treatment. As consistent completion of a daily headache diary is problematic, we have assessed the reliability of patient recall in a 1-time questionnaire. Methods. - Headache frequency and average severity (0 to 3-point scale) were reported in an interval questionnaire by 209 patients who had also maintained a daily diary over the same 4-week period. Results. - Headache frequency over the previous 4 weeks as reported in interval questionnaires (14.7) was not different from that documented in diaries (15.1), P =.056. However, reported average headache severity on a 0 to 3 scale as reported in the questionnaire (1.84) was worse than that documented in the diaries (1.63), P <.001. Conclusions. - In the management of individual patients, the daily diary is still preferable when available. Aggregate assessment of headache frequency in groups of patients based on recall of the prior 4 weeks is equally as reliable as a diary. Headache severity reported in questionnaires tends to be greater than that documented in daily diaries and may be less reliable.