Migraine is associated with magnetic resonance imaging white matter abnormalities: a meta-analysis

Arch Neurol. 2004 Sep;61(9):1366-8. doi: 10.1001/archneur.61.9.1366.


Background: There is controversy as to whether migraine is associated with white matter abnormalities (WMAs) on magnetic resonance images. These abnormalities may be important as a risk factor for future stroke. Further, it is controversial whether any increased risk of WMAs is attributable to comorbidities such as vascular disease.

Methods: A meta-analysis of published case-control studies was undertaken to address the relationship between migraine and magnetic resonance imaging WMAs. Seven studies were identified. Data from studies reporting the incidence of magnetic resonance imaging WMAs in those with migraine and appropriate control populations were used to calculate odds ratios for WMAs in migraine for each study. A stratified meta-analysis was performed using studies that did and did not exclude subjects with disease comorbidities.

Results: The summary odds ratio shows that those with migraine are at increased risk for WMAs (odds ratio, 3.9 [95% confidence interval, 2.26-6.72]). The risk does not differ between studies that included subjects with comorbidities and those that did not.

Conclusion: This meta-analysis demonstrates that subjects with migraine are at higher risk of having WMAs on magnetic resonance images than those without migraine. This increased risk is present even in younger individuals who do not have co-occurring cerebrovascular disease risk factors. Prospective studies are needed to determine whether the increased risk of stroke in migraine is mediated or foreshadowed by the presence of WMAs.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain Diseases / complications*
  • Brain Diseases / pathology
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging
  • Middle Aged
  • Migraine Disorders / complications*
  • Migraine Disorders / diagnostic imaging
  • Migraine Disorders / pathology*
  • Radiography
  • Risk Factors