Roux-en-Y gastric bypass achieves substantial resolution of migraine headache in the severely obese: 9-year experience in 81 patients

Surg Obes Relat Dis. Jan-Feb 2013;9(1):55-62. doi: 10.1016/j.soard.2012.01.009. Epub 2012 Jan 21.


Background: Although migraine headache (MH) is more severe in the obese, the risk of developing MH in the obese population is controversial. The effect of surgical weight loss on morbidly obese patients with MH provides a unique opportunity to evaluate this potential association.

Methods: We analyzed the data from 702 morbidly obese patients who underwent Roux-en-Y gastric bypass (RYGB) from 2000 to 2009. We identified patients with physician-diagnosed MH taking antimigraine medication.

Results: The data are presented as the mean ± SEM, with the range in parentheses. Of the 102 patients with preoperative MH, 21 were excluded because they had <12-month follow-up data and 81 were followed up for 38.6 ± 3 months (range 12-123). Of the 81 patients, 90% were women. Their body mass index was 48 ± 1 kg/m(2) (range 37-85), and their age was 40 ± 1 years (range 18-62). After surgical weight loss, clinical improvement in MH was seen in 89% of patients within 5.6 ± .9 months (range 1-36; P < .01, chi-square test), with 57 reporting total resolution and 15 reporting partial resolution (9 experienced no change). Using logistic regression analysis, we showed that the improvement in MH after RYGB was independent of the improvement in migraine-associated co-morbidities, such as sleep apnea, menstrual dysfunction, depression, and anxiety. We also compared patients who developed MH after obesity onset with those who had MH before obesity. The MH after obesity onset group included 51 patients, of whom 48 showed clinical improvement (41 complete, 7 partial, and 3 no improvement). The MH before obesity group included 24 patients, of whom 18 showed clinical improvement (11 complete, 7 partial, and 6 no improvement). The MH after obesity group showed a greater rate of complete resolution of MH after RYGB than did the MH before obesity group (P < .01; chi-square test).

Conclusions: Weight loss after RYGB substantially resolves MH, especially when obesity onset precedes MH onset. It remains to be determined whether RYGB-induced endocrine alterations or a reduction in adipokine burden contribute to migraine improvement.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anxiety Disorders / complications
  • Depressive Disorder / complications
  • Female
  • Gastric Bypass*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Migraine Disorders / etiology
  • Migraine Disorders / surgery*
  • Obesity, Morbid / surgery*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sleep Wake Disorders / complications
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Weight Loss