Patent foramen ovale and migraine: a quantitative systematic review

Cephalalgia. 2008 May;28(5):531-40. doi: 10.1111/j.1468-2982.2008.01554.x. Epub 2008 Mar 17.


Initial studies indicate an increased prevalence of patent foramen ovale (PFO) in migraineurs with aura, and an increased prevalence of migraine and migraine with aura in persons with PFO. Retrospective analyses of PFO closure suggest clinically significant improvements in migraine patterns. The aim of this study was to examine the prevalence of migraine in patients with PFO, the prevalence of PFO in migraineurs, and the effect of PFO closure on migraine. We conducted a quantitative systematic review of articles on migraine and PFO that met inclusion criteria, then reviewed, appraised, and subjected them to data extraction. Of 134 articles identified, 18 met a priori selection criteria. The estimated strength of association between PFO and migraine, reflected by summary odds ratios (ORs), was 5.13 [95% confidence interval (CI) 4.67, 5.59], and between PFO and migraine with aura the OR was 3.21 (95% CI 2.38, 4.17). The grade of evidence was low. The association between migraine and PFO was OR 2.54 (95% CI 2.01, 3.08). The grade of evidence was low to moderate. Six studies of PFO closure suggested improvement in migraine, but had a very low grade of evidence. The low-to-moderate grade of evidence from observational studies supports an apparent association between PFO and migraine. Although PFO closure seemed to affect migraine patterns favourably, the very low grade of available evidence to support this association precludes definitive conclusions.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Clinical Trials as Topic / statistics & numerical data*
  • Comorbidity
  • Foramen Ovale, Patent / epidemiology*
  • Humans
  • Migraine Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Prevalence
  • Proportional Hazards Models*
  • Reproducibility of Results
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sensitivity and Specificity