JOURNAL ARTICLE
REVIEW

Migraine and stroke: current perspectives

Debra Elliott
Neurological Research 2008, 30 (8): 801-12
18826806

OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this article is to review the latest concepts regarding migraine and ischemic stroke. In addition, focal neurological deficits and MRI changes in migraine patients will be reviewed.

METHODS: A PubMed search of neurological literature pertaining to this study was conducted using specific keyword search terms pertaining to migraine and ischemic stroke.

RESULTS: Migraine, especially with aura, is a relative risk factor for stroke. Neuroimaging demonstrates the posterior circulation as being most vulnerable, although the reason for this distribution is unclear. Factors that may contribute to stroke in migraine include changes during cortical spreading depression with hyper- or hypoperfusion of neural tissue, vasospasm and endothelial dysfunction. Estrogen affects migraine expression as well as cerebral circulation, yet most women with migraine without aura are not at increased risk. Co-morbidity with patent foramen ovale can be mechanism of both disorders via presumed lack of filtration of microemboli or toxic substances; however, closure with reversal of right to left shunt seems to be more beneficial for cryptogenic stroke than migraine. Migraine and stroke are found in specific genetic disorders such as CADASIL, HERNS and MELAS giving clues to genetic factors. Stroke associated with migraine treatments such as ergots or triptans is rare, and usually associated with special circumstances such as overuse or concomitant thrombogenic conditions.

CONCLUSION: Although true migrainous infarction is rare, our understanding of the subtle associations between migraine and cerebrovascular behavior is expanding.

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