There's excitement about a radical new approach to preventing migraine headaches. At a conference in Philadelphia researchers said they may have found a cure for at least a third of the people who suffer from migraines. Surprisingly, the cure could involve fixing the heart.
"Excruciating," says Nancy Buie who suffered from migraines. "I would be very sick to my stomach. I would just be incapacitated."
After she had a series of mild strokes, doctors discovered what caused her migraines. She had a hole or tunnel between the right and left side of her heart...allowing tiny clots to pass out of the heart, through the body and up to the brain where they could cause a stroke.
" The brain of a migraine sufferer is hyper excitable, we believe," explains Dr. David Dodick at the Mayo Clinic. " And if that material goes to the brain, it could trigger a cascade of events in the brain that could lead to a stroke or apparently a migraine attack."
When doctors closed the hold in Nancy Buie's heart to prevent more strokes, it cured her of her migraines. This collapsible mesh plug is what seals the heart.
Doctors thread the plug through a vein in the leg and up to the heart where it expands into place.
Dr. Jonathan Tobis, a cardiologist at the University of California medical school says many migraine sufferers could be candidates for this procedure. "I personally believe that this is going to be an extraordinarily powerful treatment for patients who have migraine headache," he says.
The procedure still needs more testing before it can be approved as a cure for migraines.