Patients Who Experience Migraines with Aura Are at an Increased Risk for Ischemic Stroke

September 23, 2009

A study presented at the 14th International Headache Congress found that patients who get migraines with aura are at an increased risk for ischemic stroke when compared to patients who do not get migraines.

Patients who get migraines with aura are at an increased risk for ischemic stroke when compared to patients who do not get migraines, according to the results of a new study that was presented at the 14th International Headache Congress, hosted by the American Headache Society (AHS).

The team, led by Markus Schuerks, MD, MSc, of the division of preventative medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the neurology division at University Hospital Essen in Germany, found that migraineurs with aura are at a two-fold increased risk for ischemic stroke. The study showed that individuals who experienced migraines with aura were at a pooled relative risk of 2.16 (95% CI 1.53-3.03) for ischemic stroke, while individuals who experienced migraines without aura were at a pooled relative risk of 1.23 (95% CI 0.90-1.69) for ischemic stroke. Additionally, risk was increased for individuals with migraines who were 45 years of age or older, migraineurs who smoked, and women with migraines who used oral contraceptives.

The study also examined the associations between migraine and death from cardiovascular disease and migraine and heart attack. The researchers found that pooled relative risk was 1.03 (95% CI 0.79-1.34) for cardiovascular disease and 1.12 (95% CI 0.95-1.32) for heart attack

The research team collected nine studies published through January 2009 using electronic databases such as PubMed, EMBASE, and the Cochrane Library, including “case-control and cohort studies investigating the association between overall migraine or specific migraine subtypes and cardiovascular events.”

"Beyond its pain and debilitating side effects, migraine holds real risks associated with other disorders, including stroke," said Fred Sheftell, MD, AHS president. "This meta-analysis further validates the disease burden that migraine sufferers must bear and dramatically underscores the need for more research in migraine diagnosis and treatment."

The study team also included researchers from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, Merck, Montefiore Headache Center, and Pierre and Marie Curie University in Paris, France.