The Relation of Migraine Headaches and Interatrial Shunts


  • Konstantinos G. Kappos
  • Vassiliki Tsagou
  • George Andrikopoulos
  • Spyros Koulouris
  • Stylianos Tzeis
  • Chryssanthi Dasopoulou
  • John Pyrros
  • Athanasios Kranidis
  • Antonis S. Manolis



patent foramen ovale, atrial septal defect, migraine, percutaneous device closure


Foramen ovale plays a very important role in fetal circulation by bypassing the lungs and diverting circulation from the right to the left heart. With birth it is usually sealed; however, probe patent or incompletely sealed foramen ovale remains in approximately 25% of adults. Patent foramen ovale (PFO) acquires significance in various congenital heart diseases or other particular settings leading to a right to left shunt, and thus to paradoxical embolism. PFO has been associated with transient ischemic attacks or cryptogenic strokes and also a host of other problems, including migraine. The recognition of an association between migraine syndrome with aura and PFO appears to have come ???full circle??? over the past two decades. Epidemiologic studies have suggested a notably increased PFO prevalence in persons suffering from migraine.The prevalence of migraine headache is higher in cryptogenic stroke patients with PFO than in the general population. Studies have suggested that closure of the PFO may reduce migrainous symptoms. The relation between this association and the recognition of migraine as a risk factor for ischemic stroke in the young is unclear, though right to left passage of circulating factors has been postulated in both syndromes. Despite case series and uncontrolled studies documenting beneficial effects of PFO closure in patients with migraine, particularly those also afflicted by cryptogenic stroke, the recommendation for PFO closure in patients with migraine alone will need to await the results of ongoing randomized trials.




Cardiology Update 2006