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Children with migraine with aura and patent foramen ovale

As many as 80% of people have a hole in their hearts that closes up before they are even born. But among people who experience migraine with aura (visual or other sensory disturbances occurring before a migraine attack), the hole never closes in a larger than average percentage of people. Most studies on this issue have been done on adults, but researchers at the University of Utah recently studied this condition, known as patent foramen ovale, in a group of children.

Patent foramen ovale (PFO) is a condition in which there is a flap or opening between the two upper chambers of the heart. This opening allows blood to flow back and forth between the chambers, bypassing the lungs, which filter the blood to remove debris. If this debris is not filtered out it can travel to the brain, causing a stroke.

Researchers have observed that people living with migraine with aura are more likely to have PFO. In this study of children researchers found that 35% of the study participants who had migraine with aura had PFO, while only 25% of the non-migraine control group had PFO. Among study participants with migraine without aura the occurrence of PFO was similar to the non-migraine group.

It is unknown what the exact relationship between migraine with aura and PFO might be. Studies have been conducted to determine the effect of closing the PFO on migraine frequency, but the results have been largely inconclusive. While some doctors continue to suggest trying the procedure if all other prevention efforts have failed, others do not believe there is any causal relationship between PFO and migraine disease that warrants closing the pfo for migraine prevention alone. The most recent data seems to support the latter view that there is no value for migraine prevention in PFO closure.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

Patent Foramen Ovale and Migraine Headaches | Closure of PFO Fails to Prevent Strokes Patent Foramen Ovale in Children with Migraine Headaches | Migraine Heart Link in Children


  • Leeny French
    8 years ago

    It’s interesting…. Just did a number of tests at the card and he explained a condition very similar to that, also recommended a baby aspirin a day.

  • AnthonyAmy Myers
    8 years ago

    I was actually born with what is called a VSD later finding out when I became pregant with my first child that I had # small ones also. These never were closed by my cardiologist nor have I had them closed since I am older either. He and I have dicussed closing them, but he said now days this surgery is considered a cosmetic procedure unless I am having enormous difficulty from them. I suffer almost daily from severe migraines and I have always wondered if these might be some cause for concern.

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