Improvement of migraine headaches in severely obese patients after bariatric surgery

Neurology. 2011 Mar 29;76(13):1135-8. doi: 10.1212/WNL.0b013e318212ab1e.


Objectives: Research increasingly suggests that obesity is an exacerbating factor for migraine. However, it is less clear whether weight loss may help to alleviate migraine in obese individuals. We examined whether weight loss after bariatric surgery is associated with improvements in migraine headaches.

Methods: In this prospective observational study, 24 patients who had migraine according to the ID-Migraine screener were assessed before and 6 months after bariatric surgery. At both time points, patients had their weight measured and reported on frequency of headache days, average headache pain severity, and headache-related disability over the past 90 days via the Migraine Disability Assessment questionnaire. Changes in headache measures and the relation of weight loss to these changes were assessed using paired-sample t tests and logistic regression, respectively.

Results: Patients were mostly female (88%), middle-aged (mean age 39.3), and severely obese (mean body mass index 46.6) at baseline. Mean (±SD) number of headache days was reduced from 11.1 ± 10.3 preoperatively to 6.7 ± 8.2 postoperatively (p < 0.05), after a mean percent excess weight loss (%EWL) of 49.4%. The odds of experiencing a ≥50% reduction in headache days was related to greater %EWL, independent of surgery type (p < 0.05). Reductions in severity were also observed (p < 0.05) and the number of patients reporting moderate to severe disability decreased from 12 (50.0%) before surgery to 3 (12.5%) after surgery (p < 0.01).

Conclusions: Severely obese migraineurs experience marked alleviation of headaches after significant weight reduction via bariatric surgery. Future studies are needed to determine whether more modest, behaviorally produced weight losses can effect similar migraine improvements.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Bariatric Surgery*
  • Body Mass Index
  • Body Weight
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Migraine Disorders / etiology*
  • Migraine Disorders / surgery*
  • Obesity / complications*
  • Obesity / surgery*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Weight Loss
  • Young Adult