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Ischemia May Be the Primary Cause of the Neurologic Deficits in Classic Migraine

Tom Skyhøj Olsen, MD; Lars Friberg, MD; Niels A. Lassen, MD
Arch Neurol. 1987;44(2):156-161. doi:10.1001/archneur.1987.00520140028013.
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• This study investigates whether the cerebral blood flow reduction occurring in attacks of classic migraine is sufficient to cause neurologic deficits. Regional cerebral blood flow measured with the xenon 133 intracarotid injection technique was analyzed in 11 patients in whom a low-flow area developed during attacks of classic migraine. When measured with this technique, regional cerebral blood flow in focal low-flow areas will be overestimated because of the effect of scattered radiation (Compton scatter) on the recordings. In this study, this effect was particularly taken into account when evaluating the degree of blood flow reduction. During attacks of classic migraine, cerebral blood flow reductions averaging 52% were observed focally in the 11 patients. Cerebral blood flow levels known to be insufficient for normal cortical function (<16 to 23 mL/100 g/min) were measured in seven patients during the attacks. This was probably also the case in the remaining four patients, but the effect of scattered radiation made a reliable evaluation of blood flow impossible. It is concluded that the blood flow reduction that occurs during attacks of classic migraine is sufficient to cause ischemia and neurologic deficits. Hence, this study suggests a vascular origin of the prodromal neurologic deficits that may accompany attacks of classic migraine.


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