Migraine Infusions: Be Prepared for Possible Side Effects

In June, I underwent three days of outpatient infusions to break the migraine cycle I was in. In a modified version of what’s known as the Raskin protocol, I received DHE, Zofran, Benedryl, and steroids by IV for several hours each day. I felt better for the three days of treatment. Then my world turned upside down.

About 30 hours after the last treatment, I became irrationally sad. I was in the early stages of a migraine attack, so I assumed that was the culprit, though my mood was much worse than usual. The migraine symptoms and bad mood lasted less than an hour. I got on with my day. The same thing happened mid-day, but my mood was even worse than the first time. I was bereft, worried that my migraine severity and frequency would never again diminish. The third time this migraine and mood flare happened, I was inconsolable.

I felt like my life was ending. Not that I was dying, but that the migraine attacks were going to once again swallow me up and that I’d lose all ability to function. Sobbing and terrified, I was as heartbroken as if someone dear to me had died. I knew my grief was probably the migraine attack talking, but the immense fear remained. My husband found me crumpled on the bedroom floor, wailing. He once again reminded me that I could get through this and held me until I fell into sleep, utterly exhausted.

I awoke the next day scared, but no longer frantic. I could step back far enough to see that migraine was not overtaking my life. My mood stabilized for the most part, though I was extra irritable for a few more days.

After I wrote about this on my blog, a friend who has chronic migraine texted to say she’d had a similar treatment a year ago. She also experienced overwhelming fear and hopelessness about a day after the treatment ended. It was a light bulb moment—maybe the steroids were the culprit. Some reading about steroid withdrawal told me my hypothesis was probably correct. My doctor confirmed this when I saw him a couple weeks later.

Think of this as a cautionary tale, not a warning to avoid IV therapy. Variations on the Raskin protocol bring relief to many people in status migranosis and it’s a useful treatment. I share my story so you can be prepared for this potential side effect. Knowing what I was getting into would have gone a long way toward soothing my grief. If the mood changes are a serious concern for you, perhaps because of existing depression, ask your doctor if you can get the treatment sans steroids or if you can taper off them slowly. I don’t want anyone to feel like I did that horrific day.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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