A large cross-sectional study focused on women with migraines with aura and compared their brain MRI images with those of women not suffering from migraine. No differences between these two groups of women were found with regard to number of silent infarcts and white matter hyperintensities (WMH). The findings were published in Brain.
More than 10% of the female population suffers from migraines. Migraines with aura is seen in one out of three of these patients, who experience transitory neurological symptoms in connection with their migraine attacks. Previous studies raised concern with regard to a possible connection between migraines and an increased risk of silent brain infarcts and white matter hyperintensities, particularly in women suffering from migraine with aura. Silent brain infarcts and WMHs have been reported to increase the risk of dementia. "This prompted us to evaluate whether women with migraine with aura might be more likely to have evidence of silent brain infarcts and an increased load of white matter hyperintensities on their brain scans," says research team leader Dr David Gaist of the Odense University Hospital and University of Southern Denmark.
The researchers identified women between 30 and 60 years of age through the Danish Twin Registry. This nationwide registry enabled them to identify 172 women with migraine with aura (cases), and 139 unrelated women with no migraine (controls) who underwent MRI brain imaging at a single centre. Thirty four co-twins who, unlike their participating twin sisters, did not suffer from migraine with aura, were also scanned.
"We found no evidence of an association between migraine with aura and silent brain infarcts or white matter hyperintensities," says Dr Gaist. "This held true for the main analyses comparing cases with unrelated controls, and for analyses focusing on twin pairs where one twin suffered from migraine with aura, and the other did not."
"We believe patients suffering from migraines with aura and their physicians should find these results re-assuring," says Dr Gaist.
This study was conducted in collaboration with the Danish Research Centre for Magnetic Resonance and the Danish Headache Center. The study received support from the Lundbeck Foundation, Novo Nordisk Foundation & Fabrikant Vilhelm Pedersen & Hustrus legat, Fonden til Lægevidenskabens Fremme A.P.Møller og Hustru Chastina Mc-Kinney Møllers Fond til Almene Formaal, and Odense University Hospital.
Migraine with aura and risk of silent brain infarcts and white matter hyperintensities: an MRI study. David Gaist, Ellen Garde, Morten Blaabjerg, Helle H. Nielsen, Thomas Krøigård, Kamilla Ostergaard, Harald S. Møller, Jacob Hjelmborg, Camilla G. Madsen, Pernille Iversen, Kirsten O. Kyvik, Hartwig R. Siebner, Messoud Ashina Brain. DOI:10.1093/brain/aww099. Published online 2 May 2016.