A new study recently published in The Journal of Pediatrics suggests a causal link between a common birth defect, patent foramen ovale, and migraines with auras in children and teens. About 15% of children experience migraines, one-third of them with auras. The defect is found in about 25% of the population in the United States.
While in the womb, the lungs of the fetus aren’t used. Instead, the foramen ovale, a small hole located in the wall separating the atriums, the two upper chambers of the heart, speeds up the travel of blood from the placenta through the heart. Normally, it closes at birth. When it doesn’t, it’s called a patent foramen ovale (PFO). This defect can allow blood that is not oxygenated into the left atrium, which feeds the brain and other organs.
Previous studies in adults have suggested an association between the birth defect and migraines. The possible correlation between PFO and children with migraines was studied by Dr. Rachel McCandless and four other colleagues from the Primary Children’s Medical Center and the University of Utah between 2008 and 2009. They tested 109 children, from the ages of 6 to 18, who suffered from migraines, 35% who experienced auras.
Dr. McCandless and her colleagues found that children with migraines with auras had a 50% chance of having a PFO – twice as much as the general public. Closure of the PFO with a catheter device may help in the treatment of migraines, specifically migraines with auras.