Investigation of possible link between migraine and a common heart defect, called a patent foramen ovale (PFO)

Doctors have received approval to investigate the possible link between migraine headache and a common heart defect, called a patent foramen ovale (PFO), which research indicates is prevalent in up to 25% of the general population or 15 million people in the UK. The prevalence of PFO in migraine with aura patients is 50%, or twice what would be expected in the general population.

PFO closure - currently used to treat certain types of stroke and decompression sickness - has been associated in some patients as a treatment, which eliminates or reduces the frequency and severity of migraine attacks. Now, the MIST (Migraine Intervention with STARFlex(R) Technology) trial will seek to demonstrate the effectiveness of this simple, non-invasive PFO closure procedure in the treatment of certain patients who suffer from these severe migraine headaches.

People who experience migraine with aura are invited to participate in the study. More information is available from the Migraine Action Association, telephone: 0870-050-5898 or www.migraine-mist.org with no obligation to sign up.

Six million people in the UK - around 10 per cent of the population - suffer migraine, which is more prevalent than diabetes, epilepsy and asthma combined. Attacks normally last between 4 and 72 hours and commonly prevent the sufferer from carrying out normal day to day activities. This accounts for 18 million working days and 750 million pounds in production lost through migraine each year in the UK.

Dr. Andrew Dowson, director, Headache Service, Kings College Hospital, London is co-primary investigator for the MIST trial. He explains: "While there are many migraine treatments that help control symptoms, as yet there is no cure for migraine. If the trial supports our theories about a migraine-PFO link, it could be the most significant development in treatment for over a decade."

Among the first doctors to publish theories on the PFO-migraine connection is Dr. Peter Wilmshurst, consultant cardiologist, Royal Shrewsbury Hospital and co-primary investigator for MIST. He says: "We are very excited to be running a dedicated trial, which we hope will finally give us answers to increase significantly our understanding of certain types of migraine headache. MIST should help us to define the appropriate course of action for patients who experience migraine attacks and also have a PFO."

Ann Turner, director of the Migraine Action Association comments: "It is impossible for someone who has never experienced a migraine to understand its significant impact on a sufferer's quality of life - not just the attacks themselves, which are so painful and debilitating, but the constant fear of the next attack. This study could revolutionise the understanding and treatment of certain migraine headaches, but we must remain cautious until the trial is completed."

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