The common congenital heart defect, patent foramen ovale (PFO) has recently been linked to increased rates of migraine with aura in pediatric patients. A study slated for publication in the Journal of Pediatrics found that 50% of children who experience migraine with aura also had a PFO. For the study 109 children ages 6 to 18 years old that were diagnosed with migraines and were treated at the Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City, Utah between 2008 and 2009 were examined. The children each had their hearts checked for PFO, a defect in the wall between the heart’s two atriums which can allow unfiltered blood to bypass the lungs and circulate through the body. A patent foramen ovale serves to allow blood to bypass the lungs in human fetuses and typically closes when the child is born, but in approximately one in four people in the United State the PFO remains open. Previous studies have suggested a link between PFO and migraine and this study found that the prevalence of PFO in patients experiencing migraine with aura was nearly double the rate of PFO in the general population. It was also found that 25% of patients experiencing migraine without aura had a PFO, but this number is similar to the prevalence of PFO in the general public. The researchers responsible for this study noted that, if further research confirms a link between migraine with aura and PFO, novel treatments such as catheter devices could be used to close the PFO and alleviate migraines with aura.
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