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Neurology. 2008 Sep 16;71(12):937-43. doi: 10.1212/01.wnl.0000325918.48056.75.

Burden of atherosclerosis and risk of venous thromboembolism in patients with migraine.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Innsbruck Medical University, Austria.



Previous studies have yielded evidence of an enhanced risk of cardiovascular disease, especially stroke, among patients with migraine. Our understanding of the underlying mechanisms is far from complete. The aims of the present study were to investigate the potential association between migraine and atherosclerosis and to assess the risk of venous thromboembolism as a clinical surrogate for a procoagulant state in patients with migraine.


The examination was part of the population-based Bruneck Study. During the 2005 evaluation, 574 participants aged 55-94 years underwent neurologic and laboratory examinations involving a standardized headache interview and scanning of the carotid and femoral arteries to evaluate presence, severity, and progression (2000-2005) of atherosclerosis.


A large number of well-founded and putative cardiovascular risk factors have emerged as being unrelated to migraine status. Prevalence, severity, and 5-year progression of carotid and femoral atherosclerosis did not differ significantly between migraineurs with and without aura and nonmigraineurs. In fact, there was even a tendency for atherosclerosis to be less pronounced among patients with migraine, and for the intima-media thickness to be lower (p = 0.029). As a novel finding migraineurs faced a significantly enhanced risk of venous thromboembolism (18.9% vs 7.6% in nonmigraineurs, age/sex-adjusted p = 0.031).


This study is the first to compare the burden of atherosclerosis as quantified by high-resolution duplex ultrasound between migraineurs and nonmigraineurs in the general community, and provides solid evidence against the view that migraine predisposes to atherosclerosis. The higher risk for venous thromboembolism among migraineurs (prothrombotic state) awaits confirmation and elaboration in future research.

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