Research and clinical trials for headaches in children

Research & Innovation

Working with your primary care provider

Since a patient may receive headache care from her pediatrician or with a neurologist, coordinating care can be a challenge. Neurologists at Boston Children’s Hospital work to develop effective plans of care for our patients and families and partner with primary care physicians so that together we can provide the best care possible.

In order to make this collaboration even more effective, neurologists from Boston Children’s and primary care physicians from Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates (HVMA) have come together to develop new ways of working together. Our new team approach allows children to receive a larger portion of their ongoing headache care from their pediatricians, strengthening their connection with their primary care providers and providing for more comprehensive, well-coordinated care. This approach should also shorten wait times for appointments in the Children’s Neurology department and lower medical costs for families. Together with our partners at HVMA, we aim to deliver family-centered care to our patients in the most appropriate setting.

We look forward to expanding this collaborative model to include other primary care provider groups, as well. We know that when we work closely with primary care doctors, it benefits our patients.

Improving headache care through research

There is a lot still to be learned about children’s headaches. So headache specialists at Boston Children’s are engaged in research to learn more about how headaches happen, their effects and how to best treat them.

Boston Children’s neurologist and pain management specialist Alyssa LeBel, MD, and her colleagues are using a type of brain scan called functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to study how the brain activity of children and teens with migraines is different from the brain activity of kids who don’t have migraines. This information may lead to a better understanding of migraines—and, we hope, better treatments for them.

Boston Children’s physicians and psychologists are also studying how effective non-drug therapies, such as biofeedback, are for children with chronic headaches including migraines. Research like this can help to improve treatment protocols for children with headaches—both at Boston Children’s and at other institutions.

Clinical Innovation: Working together to improve headache care

We value our interactions with our patients' primary care providers and are eager to make coordination and reporting of care as productive as possible. 

In 2009, a group of specialists from Boston Children's Hospital, including Scott L. Pomeroy, MD, PhD, neurologist-in-chief, and Richard C. Antonelli, MD, MS, medical director for integrated care, sat down with primary care providers from Harvard Vanguard Medical Associates to develop new strategies of collaboration for the care of our patients. Drawing on feedback from patient families, we designed new, coordinated systems for PCPs and sub-specialists to work together.

  • Our neurologists provide information and support to primary care physicians assessing their patients for headaches. As needed, neurologists provide guidance to primary care doctors to ensure their patients see a neurologist for further evaluation when necessary and help determine what imaging might be most appropriate for individual patients on a case-by-case basis.
  • Whenever a child is seen in the Department of Neurology, we quickly report our findings and recommendations back to the referring provider so she can continue to coordinate care for her patients.
  • We support ongoing communication between neurologists and primary care providers, strengthening connections with pediatricians and providing for more comprehensive and convenient coordination of care.

We look forward to expanding this collaborative model to include other primary care provider groups, as well.


Clinical trials
Find out more about the innovative clinical trials available at Boston Children’s.