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Improvement of migraine headaches after percutaneous closure of patent foramen ovale for secondary prevention of paradoxical embolism
  1. Andreas Wahl1,
  2. Fabien Praz1,
  3. Tony Tai1,
  4. Oliver Findling2,
  5. Nazan Walpoth1,
  6. Krassen Nedeltchev2,
  7. Markus Schwerzmann1,
  8. Stephan Windecker1,
  9. Heinrich P Mattle2,
  10. Bernhard Meier1
  1. 1Department of Cardiology, University Hospital Bern, Bern, Switzerland
  2. 2Department of Neurology, University Hospital Bern, Bern, Switzerland
  1. Correspondence to Bernhard Meier, Professor and Chairman of Cardiology, Swiss Cardiovascular Center Bern, University Hospital, Bern 3010, Switzerland; bernhard.meier{at}


Objectives Patent foramen ovale (PFO) has been linked to migraine, and an improvement in migraine prevalence or frequency has been reported after PFO closure for other reasons. We sought to identify whether there is a specific patient population of migraineurs which may be more susceptible to benefiting from PFO closure.

Design Retrospective cohort study.

Setting Tertiary care centre.

Participants 603 consecutive patients undergoing percutaneous PFO closure for secondary prevention of paradoxical embolism.

Interventions PFO closure using the Amplatzer PFO occluder.

Main outcome measures Improvement of migraine symptoms.

Results 150 patients (25%; aged 51±11 years) suffered from migraine, including 96 patients with migraine with aura. All implantation procedures were successful, without procedural complications. Contrast transoesophageal echocardiography at 6 months showed complete PFO closure in 136 patients (91%), whereas a minimal, moderate or large residual shunt persisted in 11 (7%), 2 (1%) or 1 (1%) patients, respectively. During 5.0±1.9 years of follow-up, one TIA and one ischaemic stroke occurred. Migraine headaches disappeared in 51 patients (34%) and improved in 72 additional patients (48%). Mean subjective improvement was 69±35%. Overall, mean headache frequency (from 2−3×/month to 1×/month; p<0.001), duration (from 4–72 to <4 h; p<0.001) and intensity (from 7±2 to 3±3; p<0.001) improved significantly. The prevalence of any migraine headaches (from 100% to 66%; p<0.001), migraine with aura (from 64% to 19%; p<0.001) and the number of patients taking any migraine medication (from 90% to 50%; p<0.001) decreased significantly. Both the presence of aura (OR 3.2; 95%CI 1.3 to 8.2; p=0.014) and high pain intensity at baseline (pain scale >5; OR 3.3; 95%CI 1.3 to 8.4; p=0.013) were independent predictors of response to PFO closure. A residual shunt had no influence on migraine improvement (OR 0.6; 95%CI 0.1 to 2.3; p=0.42).

Conclusions These results suggest that percutaneous PFO closure durably alters the spontaneous course of shunt-associated migraine, especially but not exclusively in case of migraine with aura.

  • Atrial septal aneurysm
  • patent foramen ovale
  • migraine
  • migraine with aura
  • cerebral ischaemia
  • paradoxical embolism
  • secondary stroke prevention
  • stroke
  • device closure

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  • Funding SW, HPM and BM: research grant and speaker bureau for AGA Medical.

  • Competing interests None.

  • Patient consent Obtained.

  • Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the Ethics Committee of the Canton of Berne.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.