Migraine Headaches and Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO)

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A PFO is a structural defect of the heart that results when a small opening in the wall between the two upper chambers that allow blood to cross from right to left of the chamber, which then associate to migraine headaches and other medical conditions. The ESCAPE Migraine clinical trial is exploring the connection between migraines and PFO.

An estimated 30 million Americans -- about 10 percent of the population -- suffer from migraine headaches, a neurological disorder characterized by chronic and disabling headaches. Twenty-five percent of young American women are estimated to be affected by migraines.

Currently, there is no cure for migraines. The headaches are often prevented and treated through drug therapy. However, some migraine sufferers either do not respond to medications or experience unpleasant side effects.    

A PFO is a structural defect of the heart that results when a small opening in the wall between the two upper chambers of the heart (the atria) fails to close during infancy. Everyone is born with a PFO, but in approximately 25 percent of adults, the PFO has not closed naturally.

A PFO can allow blood to cross from the heart’s right upper chamber to its upper left chamber without first being filtered and oxygenated by the lungs. When the PFO is closed, blood cannot travel into the left atrium without first going through the lungs.

An association between migraine headaches and PFOs was first observed by physicians who treated patients with PFOs for other medical conditions, such as stroke and decompression illness (which may accompany activities like scuba diving). These physicians later noticed a reduced frequency in their patients’ migraine headaches. Other informal studies have shown reduced pain after PFO closure for migraine patients. Future trials are necessary to determine if there is a causal relationship between PFO and these diseases.

It is not known why patients with a PFO may be more likely to have migraines. Nor is it known why closing the PFO may decrease migraine attacks. Medical scientists theorize that blood, allowed to pass through the PFO from the upper right chamber of the heart to the upper left chamber without being first filtered by the lungs contains substances that trigger migraines.

The ESCAPE Migraine clinical trial is exploring the connection between migraines and PFO. For information on the clinical trial, visit http://www.ESCAPEmigraines.com or call 1-888-8STJUDE.

Premere PFO Closure System – St. Jude Medical, Inc. – http://www.sjm.com
Caution: In the United States (U.S), limited by law to investigational use.

The ESCAPE migraine trial is sponsored by St. Jude Medical.

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Tiffany Le