Medical College of Wisconsin
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Small- and moderate-size right-to-left shunts identified by saline contrast echocardiography are normal and unrelated to migraine headache. Chest 2010 Aug;138(2):264-9



Pubmed ID




Scopus ID

2-s2.0-77955360968   52 Citations


BACKGROUND: We suspected, based on clinical experience, that the prevalence of both intracardiac and pulmonary arteriovenous malformations (PAVMs) is higher than previously reported in a healthy population when using modern ultrasound technology combined with a rigorous saline contrast echocardiogram (SCE) protocol. We hypothesized the prevalence of right-to-left shunts (RLSs) would be so high when using this sensitive technique that there would be no significant association of RLS with migraine headache.

METHODS: We recruited 104 healthy volunteers to undergo an SCE followed by completion of a migraine questionnaire. The SCEs were meticulously graded for shunt size and location based on left-sided heart contrast quantity and timing. The migraine headache questionnaire was graded by a neurologist blinded to SCE results.

RESULTS: One hundred four subjects underwent the study protocol. We found 71% of subjects exhibited evidence of RLS. Patent foramen ovale (PFO) was identified in 40 (38%), PAVM was identified in 29 (28%), and five subjects had evidence of both (5%). Based on questionnaires, 42 (40%) of the subjects had migraine headache (29% with aura). There was no significant association of migraine headache with PFO (OR, 0.59; 95% CI, 0.16-2.12; P = .54) or PAVM (OR, 0.8; 95% CI, 0.34-1.9; P = .67), although only 13 (13%) of the subjects had evidence of large RLS.

CONCLUSIONS: When using modern ultrasound technology combined with a rigorous SCE technique, the majority of healthy subjects demonstrate some degree of RLS. PAVM in an otherwise healthy population is common. Small- and moderate-size RLSs do not appear to be significantly associated with migraine headache.

Author List

Woods TD, Harmann L, Purath T, Ramamurthy S, Subramanian S, Jackson S, Tarima S


Sergey S. Tarima PhD Associate Professor in the Institute for Health and Equity department at Medical College of Wisconsin

MESH terms used to index this publication - Major topics in bold

Arteriovenous Malformations
Contrast Media
Foramen Ovale, Patent
Lung Diseases
Middle Aged
Migraine Disorders
Sodium Chloride
Surveys and Questionnaires
Young Adult
jenkins-FCD Prod-486 e3098984f26de787f5ecab75090d0a28e7f4f7c0