Thursday, April 28, 2005
By JEAN ENERSEN / KING 5 News
Nadine knows how excruciating migraine headaches can be.
"If I had them during the day and went to sleep with them, I knew I would get up with the same terrible pain, my head and throwing up," she said.
Nothing seemed to help. Then, she had a minor stroke caused by a hole in her heart. Once doctors closed it Nadine was shocked to find she never again had another migraine.
Swedish Heart Institute Interventional Cardiologist Mark Reisman, M.D., says Nadine's case is no fluke. Research now shows millions of migraine sufferers may have a hole in their hearts.
"There is a sub-group of migraine sufferers who appear to get benefit once this is closed," said Dr. Reisman.
The hole in the heart is called a PFO and is traditionally only closed if it causes a stroke. It was during post-surgical follow-ups that Dr. Reisman discovered the migraine connection.
"They would often suggest to us that, 'We feel very, very good. We hope that we'll never have a stroke. But, actually more dramatic is the fact that we no longer have headaches,'" he said.
After the catheter-based procedure, 56 percent never had another migraine again and 14 percent had fewer episodes.
"Despite nothing else changing, other than their PFO being closed with this device, they subsequently have been relieved of migraine headaches," said Dr. Reisman. "This is very exciting research."
Headache specialist, Dr. Stephen Landy, is encouraged by Dr. Reisman's study and others like it. He says the heart procedure may actually become a viable migraine remedy for some patients.
"It will be a novel treatment, a non-medication treatment, which will be very worthwhile," said Dr. Landy.
But, the National Headache Foundation's Dr. Robert Kunkel cautions more research still needs to be done.
"The reports so far have all been in people who have had strokes as well as migraine, not just migraine by itself," he said.
Dr. Reisman agrees, and wants larger studies, but says he's already seen the relief first hand.
"I can tell stories so moving about how people's lives have been changed," he said. "I look back and say my goodness, that has been such a reward."
It is important to stress that not all migraine sufferers have a hole in their heart, and until more research is done, doctors are not suggesting all migraine patients get tested for the defect.
A large-scale study with migraine patients is currently underway in England and Dr. Reisman is awaiting FDA approval for similar research here in the U.S.
To link to the KING TV transcript above and watch this story online (Windows MediaPlayer needed), click here.
- To read a Feb.15, 2005 news release from the American College of Cardiology about two related studies, including the results of a retrospective study conducted at Swedish that looked at whether there maybe a relationship between PFO repair and migraine relief, click here.
- To read a related article published in the April 11, 2005 issue of US News & World Report, which Dr. Reisman was interviewed for, click here.