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Sunday 23rd October 2016

Heartening news for migraines

16th March 2006

17032006_headache.jpgNew research suggests that some cases of severe migraine may be effectively treated by closing a hole in the heart.  Around one in ten in the UK suffer from migraines - more than diabetes, asthma and epilepsy combined.

The study was led by doctors in London and Shrewsbury, results were presented to the American College of Cardiology.

Scientists found surgical repair of the defect cut the severity of migraine attacks by 37%.

Studies have indicated a strong link between migraine with aura - the type associated with bright flashing lights - and a hole in the heart. A hole in the heart, known technically as a patent foramen ovale (PFO), is a minor defect in the wall that separates the two upper chambers of the heart, the atria. It is thought that failure completely to filter the blood of impurities in the normal way may result in migraines.

The link was in part discovered after work on divers, who are more susceptible to decompression sickness - the bends - if they have a PFO. Several who had the heart problem fixed, also found their migraines got better.

There is currently no cure for migraine sufferers. Some manage with available drug treatments, but for many it seriously affects their ability to live a normal life.

The latest study screened 432 migraine with aura patients, and found 24% had a moderate or large PFO - six times greater than the number found in the general population.

Six months after surgery to repair the defect, patients reported a 37% reduction in migraine burden - calculated by multiplying the number of headaches by their length. The researchers had hoped to achieve a 40% reduction - but argue the results are still significant.

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