Migraines can be stopped with heart surgery, city experts say

Cai Wenjun
Headaches not linked to the brain or nervous system might result from congenital heart disease.
Cai Wenjun

Migraine headaches over a long period may be linked to congenital heart disease, local medical experts said.

They have advised people dealing with migraines to get their heart checked if doctors have failed to find a cause in the brain or nervous system.

The advice was spurred by the case of a 60-year-old woman who visited Shanghai Yueyang Hospital of Integrated Traditional Chinese and Western Medicine looking for relief from 30 years of migraine headaches.

She was advised by doctors the headaches may be related to a heart problem.

A check on her heart confirmed that she suffered from patent foramen ovale, or PFO, which is a hole between the left and right atria of the heart. 

The hole exists in everyone before birth, but often closes shortly after birth. It is designated a PFO when it fails to close naturally after a baby is born.

"PFO is a congenital defect of the heart and affects about 20 to 25 percent of adults," said Dr Chen Tongyu from Yueyang hospital's heart center. 

"Most people don't suffer symptoms, however those with complications like unknown-cause migraine headaches, nausea, fatigue or stroke should get a hospital check," Chen said.

Chen conducted minimally invasive surgery on the woman, using a wire to enter the femoral vein, get to the heart and block the hole via a special closure device. The process only left a needle hole on her body.

The traditional method of dealing with a PFO involved full surgery which could result in complications like infection, said Dr Zhou Jia, president of Yueyang. 

"The development of interventional medicine can solve some congenital heart problems through a minimally invasive approach to benefit patients," he said.

Migraines can be stopped with heart surgery, city experts say
Ti Gong

Doctors enter the femoral vein with a wire to block the patient's PFO.

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