Ibuprofen Seems Efficacious For the Management of High Altitude Headache

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Ibuprofen Seems Efficacious For the Management of High Altitude Headache

Based on a limited number of studies ibuprofen seems efficacious for the prevention of HAH and may, therefore, represent an alternative for preventing HAH with acetazolamide or dexamethasone. HAH is one of the common forms of a headache which occurs at high altitude, generally over 3000 meters above the sea level. It is a  neurological problem in which cellular hypoxia occurs due to low barometric pressure at height. Most of the HAH known to respond to pain relief medicines such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. However, ibuprofen use in HAH prevention is still unclear.

Therefore, to evaluate ibuprofen efficacy in managing HAH, scientists conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomised, placebo-controlled trials (RCTs). Electronic database until 2016 was used to evaluate studies that reporting ibuprofen efficacy in HAH prevention. Total three randomised-controlled clinical trials involved in the research, which contained 407 participants. These participants differentiated into two groups, 239 received ibuprofen and left 168  received placebo. In the ibuprofen group, 101 cases showed HAH, and in the placebo group, 96 showed HAH. The absolute risk reduction (ARR) noticed among them was 15%, and the number needed to treat (NNT) to prevent HAH was 7.

Moreover, the HAH prevalence was significant in both the groups. During analysis, the primary outcome which evaluated was the difference in the incidence of HAH between ibuprofen and placebo groups. The risk ratios were also assessed by using a Mantel-Haenszel random effect model. Further, I2 statistics were also involved in the study to evaluate the heterogeneity of included trials.

After treatment, the cases of HAH occurred among ibuprofen was 3% and 10% in placebo. The prevalence of ARR was 8%, and the NNT was 13. However, the severity of a headache was not different between both the group, measured by using a visual analogue scale. No difference in the change in  SpO2 from baseline to altitude was seen after treatment. Further, amid the ibuprofen group, three participants suffered from stomach pain and one with black stools. The placebo group showed seven cases of stomach pain.


PLoS One. 2017 Jun 20;12(6):e0179788.

Link to the source:


Original title of article:

Efficacy of ibuprofen on prevention of high altitude headache: A systematic review and meta-analysis.


Juan Xiong; et al.

Therapeutic, Ibuprofen, Headache, Systematic review, Meta-analysis, Placebo-controlled trials, Visual analogue scale
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