Author + information
- Received October 5, 2009
- Revision received October 28, 2009
- Accepted November 13, 2009
- Published online March 1, 2010.
- Gianluca Rigatelli, MD⁎,⁎ (, )
- Fabio Dell'Avvocata, MD⁎,
- Federico Ronco, MD⁎,
- Paolo Cardaioli, MD⁎,
- Massimo Giordan, MD⁎,
- Gabriele Braggion, MD†,
- Silvio Aggio, MD†,
- Mauro Chinaglia, MD‡,
- Giorgio Rigatelli, MD§ and
- Jack P. Chen, MD∥
- ↵⁎Reprint requests and correspondence:
Dr. Gianluca Rigatelli, Rovigo General Hospital, Section of Adult Congenital Heart Disease, Via Mozart, 9, Legnago, Verona 37045, Italy
Objectives In the present study, we sought to assess the effectiveness of migraine treatment by means of primary patent foramen ovale (PFO) transcatheter closure in patients with anatomical and functional characteristics predisposing to paradoxical embolism without previous cerebral ischemia.
Background The exact role for transcatheter closure of PFO in migraine therapy has yet to be elucidated.
Methods We enrolled 86 patients (68 female, mean age 40.0 ± 3.7 years) referred to our center over a 48-month period for a prospective study to evaluate severe, disabling, medication-refractory migraine and documented PFO. The Migraine Disability Assessment Score (MIDAS) was used to assess the incidence and severity of migraine. Criteria for intervention included all of the following: basal shunt and shower/curtain shunt pattern on transcranial Doppler and echocardiography, presence of interatrial septal aneurysm and Eustachian valve, 3 to 4 class MIDAS score, coagulation abnormalities, and medication-refractory migraine with or without aura.
Results On the basis of our inclusion criteria, we enrolled 40 patients (34 females, mean age 35.0 ± 6.7 years, mean MIDAS 35.8 ± 4.7) for transcatheter PFO closure; the remainder continued on previous medical therapy. Percutaneous closure was successful in all cases, with no peri-procedural or in-hospital complications. After a mean follow-up of 29.2 ± 14.8 months (range 6 to 48 months), PFO closure was complete in 95%; all patients (100%) reported improved migraine symptomatology (mean MIDAS score 8.3 ± 7.8, p < 0.03). Specifically, auras were eliminated in 100% of patients after closure.
Conclusions Primary transcatheter PFO closure resulted in a very significant reduction in migraine in patients satisfying our criteria.
Migraine is a recurrent, common, and potentially disabling headache affecting up to 10% of the population, accounting for significant morbidity, lost productivity, and health care expenditures. Approximately 25% of migraine patients further suffer from concomitant aura. Beta-blockers, amitriptyline, and anticonvulsants attenuate headache intensity and frequency in 30% to 50% of patients (1). Although the pathophysiology of migraine is not fully understood, the presence of patent foramen ovale (PFO) is believed to play a role in the pathophysiology. Some studies have reported a greater PFO association in subjects with aura, as compared with those without (2–3). Although prior nonrandomized studies involving nonhomogeneous patient cohorts have suggested a beneficial role for PFO closure in migraine therapy, much controversy still lingers regarding this clinical question. It should be noted that the only randomized trial, the MIST (Migraine Intervention with Starflex Technology) trial (4), failed to show significant benefit from PFO percutaneous closure. However, most previous studies did not identify clear inclusion criteria; this issue might have negatively impacted long-term outcomes. We sought to assess the effectiveness of migraine therapy with PFO transcatheter closure in patients without previous cerebral ischemia and with anatomic and functional characteristics predisposing to paradoxical embolism.
We enrolled 86 patients (68 women, mean age 40 ± 3.7 years) who were referred to our center for a 48-month prospective study to evaluate the correlation between migraine and PFO. The PFO were documented by transthoracic echocardiography/transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) as part of migraine evaluation (Table 1). Migraine was diagnosed according to the International Headache Society criteria (5): Migraine Disability Assessment Score (MIDAS) (6) was used to assess the incidence and severity of migraine headache by an independent neurologist.
Criteria for intervention were driven by authors' experience as well as prevailing published data and included all the following: curtain shunt pattern of right-to-left (R-L) shunt on transcranial Doppler (TC-D) (7) and TEE, refractory and disabling migraine (with 3 to 4 class MIDAS score) with or without Aura, PFO, R-L shunt during normal respiration, atrial septal aneurysm (ASA), coagulation abnormalities (including Leiden Factor V mutation, methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase [MTHFR] mutation, C and S protein, anticardiolipin and antiphospholipid autoantibodies, antithrombin III), and presence of Eustachian valve (EV). Refractory disabling migraine was defined as migraine with MIDAS >25, refractory to conventional drug therapy, including personalized dosage of beta blockers, antidepressive drugs, tryptan, and anti-inflammatory medications.
Transthoracic echocardiography and/or TEE was conducted with a GE Vivid 7 (General Electric Corp., Norfolk, Virginia) with bubble test and Valsalva maneuver under local anesthesia: shunt grading (grade 0 = none, grade 1 = 1 to 5 bubbles, grade 2 = 6 to 20 bubbles, grade 3 = ≥20 bubbles); presence of EV; and ASA extension, classified according to Olivares-Reyes et al. (8), were obtained. Patients meeting criteria for the study were offered an intracardiac echocardiographic guided PFO closure with the mechanical 9-F 9-MHz UltraICE catheter (EP Technologies, Boston Scientific Corporation, San Jose, California). The intracardiac echocardiography (ICE) study was conducted as previously described (9), by performing a manual pull-back from the superior vena cava to the inferior vena cava through 5 sectional planes; measurements of diameters of the oval fossa, the entire atrial septal length, and rims were obtained with electronic caliper edge-to-edge in the aortic valve plane and the 4-chamber plane. The PFO tunnel length was also measured, and EV presence was confirmed intraprocedurally. Intracardiac echocardiographic monitoring of the implantation procedure was conducted in the 4-chamber plane.
Device selection process
On the basis of ICE findings and measurements, the operators selected either the Amplatzer Occluder family (PFO Occluder, Cribriform Occluder, or ASD Occluder, AGA Medical Corporation, Golden Valley, Minnesota) or the Premere Closure System (St. Jude Medical Incorporated, St. Paul, Minnesota). The Amplatzer PFO Occluder was selected when the ASA was bidirectional with moderate motion (3 R-L or 3 left-to-right ASA). The Premere occlusion system was chosen in cases of absent, motionless, or unidirectional ASA (1 R, 2 L ASA); when PFO tunnel length was ≥10 mm; and in all cases of thick septum secundum (thickness >10 mm). The Amplatzer Cribriform Occluder was selected in cases of multi-perforated ASA. Care was taken to cross the most central hole in the oval fossa with the guidewire during ICE guidance, as previously described (10). These devices were also selected for huge and bidirectional ASA (4 to 5 R-L ASA) to ensure as-complete-as-possible coverage of the oval fossa on both sides of the interatrial septum. Device size selection involved ensuring that the entire left disk diameter did not exceed the entire interatrial septal length on ICE measurement.
Follow-up was conducted by means of TEE at 1 month and, if even a small shunt was detected, at 6 months as well. Additionally, transthoracic echocardiography at 1 month and 6 and 12 months; TC-D at 1 month; Holter monitoring at 1 month; and clinic visit at 1 month and 6 and 12 months were also performed. Residual shunt was assessed by contrast TEE and TC-D (11). The MIDAS evaluation was performed at 6 and 12 months and yearly after the first year after implantation; patients were interviewed regarding reduction or abolition of migraine and aura with a 4-grade scale: 100% (total resolution), 50% reduction, 25% reduction, or 0% (unchanged). A minimum of 6-month follow-up was required for inclusion in the final results.
Chi-square, analysis of variance, and paired Student t tests were used to compare frequencies and continuous variables between and within groups. Statistical analysis was performed with a statistical software package (SAS for Windows, version 8.2, SAS Institute, Cary, North Carolina). A p value of <0.05 was considered to be statistically significant.
On the basis of all the inclusion criteria, we enrolled 40 patients (34 female, mean age 35 ± 6.7 years, mean MIDAS score 35.8 ± 4.7) for transcatheter PFO closure; the remainder were referred to the neurology service for medical therapy, which included beta blockers, anti-depressive drugs, tryptan, and anti-inflammatory medications. All patients were informed of and consented to the off-label nature of the intervention. The study was approved by the local internal review board and ethics committee.
The procedure was successful in all patients (Tables 2 and 3)⇓⇓ with no peri-procedural or in-hospital complications. At a mean follow-up of 29.2 ± 14.8 months (range 6 to 48), all patients experienced symptomatic improvement (Figs. 1 and 2)⇓⇓ with a mean MIDAS score of 8.3 ± 7.8 (p < 0.03) (Fig. 3). In contrast, the MIDAS scores of excluded subjects assigned to medical therapy remained essentially unchanged during the same follow-up period (22.6 ± 7.1 at baseline vs. 19.1 ± 8.2 in the follow-up, p = 0.059). Complete PFO closure was observed in 95% of patients on TEE and TC-D ultrasound. In particular, at follow-up, aura disappeared in 100% of patients with pre-procedural aura.
Two patients (5%) had a persistent small shunt on TEE (both patients had an Amplatzer ASD Cribriform Occluder 25 mm). Two other patients (5%) developed atrial fibrillation during the early post-procedural period and were treated with antiarrhythmic drugs with restoration of sinus rhythm (1 patient with an Amplatzer ASD Cribriform 30 mm, and 1 patient with a Premere Occlusion system 20 mm). No aortic erosion or device thrombosis was observed during follow-up.
Our results suggests that patients with anatomic and functional characteristics highly predictive of paradoxical embolism responded very favorably to transcatheter PFO closure with significant symptomatic improvement or even cure. These benefits are maintained over long-term follow-up. Moreover, no appreciable symptomatic relief was observed in the excluded patients, who were relegated to optimal medical therapy alone and served as a quasi-control arm. Taken collectively, the inclusion criteria might be helpful in predicting migraine patients most likely to respond to PFO closure.
Albeit rare, the potential complications of device-based closure (12) such as erosion, thrombosis, arrhythmias, and silent cerebral embolization during implantation as well as the incompletely investigated nickel hypersensitivity reaction all mandate meticulous patient selection and solid clinical justification for consideration of such procedures. The inclusion criteria of the recent MIST trial included: minimum 1-year history, 5 or more days of migraine/month, aura, symptoms refractory to 2 preventative medications, moderate-to-large PFO assessed only by TEE, and maintenance of prophylactic medications (4). Patients with coagulation abnormalities or with a serious risk of paradoxical embolization were excluded. The degree of shunt on TC-D was not included in the decision-making process. Moreover, a single device type of different sizes was implanted regardless of specific patients' interatrial septum characteristics.
As we suggested previously, to achieve widespread acceptance, primary percutaneous closure of PFO to treat migraine—a potentially debilitating but nonetheless nonlife threatening condition—must demonstrate a substantial benefit-to-risk ratio. To this end, our findings seem to support primary PFO closure for patients satisfying high-risk clinical and anatomic features for paradoxical embolism.
Recent studies have demonstrated that basal shunt and medium-to-large shunts, particularly when associated with migraine or coagulation abnormalities, are correlated with an increased risk of paradoxical embolism (13,14). Additionally, shower or curtain shunt patterns are usually detected in patients with previously presumed paradoxical embolism (15). Sastry et al. (16) suggested that only medium-to-large shunts are related to stroke risk, whereas Anzola et al. (17) demonstrated that migraine with aura is closely correlated with medium and large shunts. Moreover, anatomic characteristics such as ASA (18–20) and large EV (21) have similarly been correlated with an increased risk of paradoxical embolism. Santamarina et al. (22) observed that an “embolic” pattern was significantly (p = 0.01) more frequently seen in PFO with ASA patients (n = 37; 44%) as compared with PFO without ASA (n = 22; 26.2%) or no abnormalities (n = 25; 29.8%) on TEE.
In previous series, our group reported that in patients with prior stroke, several anatomic and clinical criteria might be predictive of responders to percutaneous PFO closure for migraine therapy (23,24). In the current study, we applied those similar criteria in a population without previous cerebral paradoxical embolism: curtain shunt pattern of R-L shunt on TC-D and TEE, PFO, R-L shunt during normal respiration, ASA, coagulations abnormalities, and presence of EV. According to the microembolic hypothesis and the chemical embolism theory, these same characteristics have been previously linked to migraine, especially migraine with aura (15,17,21,22).
We observed, in contrast to other studies (25–31), total eradication of aura in all patients with pre-procedural aura. One purely speculative explanation might be that aura itself is related to certain anatomic and functional characteristics of the right atrium including large R-L shunt, ASA, and EV, independent of any association with migraine.
Moreover, white matter lesions on magnetic resonance imaging was not a mandatory inclusion criterion in our series—differing from most recent series, including the study by Vigna et al. (30). The nature of these lesions is still under debate; it is yet unclear whether they represent embolic ischemic foci versus alternating vasodilatory and vasoconstrictive cycles typical of migraine itself. Finally, compared with most studies in current published reports, our study included a minimum of 6-month follow-up as well as a longer global follow-up.
We recognized several limitations to our study. Firstly, our patient sample size was small; however, we had set fairly stringent inclusion criteria, thereby limiting enrollment. Also, this was a single-center trial. The nonrandomized nature was clearly a limitation. Nonetheless, we were able to follow a surrogate “quasi-” control group, the excluded patients assigned to medical therapy alone, and observed a dramatic difference in symptomatic response. As with any invasive intervention evaluation absent a sham arm, the potential for placebo bias cannot be fully ignored. This issue is particularly pertinent when outcomes relate to subjectively reported symptomatic improvements.
Given the nonlife-threatening nature of migraines, patient selection for percutaneous PFO closure should probably be reserved for cases of disabling and medically refractory symptomatology. Our findings seem to support the proposed high-risk clinical and anatomic features for paradoxical embolism as markers of response to transcatheter closure. Before consideration for clinical application, future large-scale, multicenter, randomized evaluations are needed for further confirmation of our preliminary results.
- Abbreviations and Acronyms
- atrial septal aneurysm
- Eustachian valve
- intracardiac echocardiography
- Migraine Disability Assessment Score
- patent foramen ovale
- transcranial Doppler
- transesophageal echocardiography
- Received October 5, 2009.
- Revision received October 28, 2009.
- Accepted November 13, 2009.
- American College of Cardiology Foundation
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