Migraine headache is not associated with cerebral
or meningeal vasodilatationça 3T magnetic
resonance angiography study
G.G. Schoonman,1J. vander Grond,2C.Kortmann,1R. J. vander Geest,2G.M.Terwindt1and M.D.Ferrari1
1Department of Neurology and2Department of Radiology, Leiden University Medical Centre, Leiden,The Netherlands
Correspondence to: G.G. Schoonman, MD, Department of Neurology (K5-Q), Leiden University Medical Centre,
PO Box 9600, 2300 RC Leiden,The Netherlands
Migraine headache is widely believed to be associated with cerebral or meningeal vasodilatation. Human
evidence for this hypothesis is lacking. 3 T esla magnetic resonance angiography (3T MRA) allows for repetitive,
non-invasive, sensitive assessment of intracranial vasodilatation and blood flow.Nitroglycerine (NTG) can faith-
fully induce migraine attacks facilitating pathophysiological studies in migraine. Migraineurs (n=32) randomly
received NTG (IV 0.5kg/kg/min for 20min; n=27) or placebo (n=5; for blinding reasons).Using 3T MRA, we
measured: (i) blood flow in the basilar (BA) and internal carotid arteries (ICA) and (ii) diameters of the middle
meningeal, externalcarotid,ICA, middle cerebral,BA and posteriorcerebral arteries atthree timepoints: (a) at
baseline, outside an attack; (b) during infusion of NTG or placebo and (c) during a provoked attack or, if no
attack had occurred, at 6h after infusion. Migraine headache was provoked in 20/27 (74%) migraineurs who
received NTG, but in none of the five patients who received placebo. The headache occurred between 1.5h
and 5.5h after infusion and was unilateral in 18/20 (90%) responders. During NTG (but not placebo) infusion,
there was a transient 6.7^30.3% vasodilatation (P_0.01) of all blood vessels. During migraine, blood vessel
diameters were no different from baseline, nor between headache and non-headache sides. There were no
changes in BA and ICA blood flow during either NTG infusion or migraine. In contrast to widespread belief,
migraine attacks are not associated with vasodilatation of cerebral or meningeal blood vessels. Future
anti-migraine drugs may not require vasoconstrictor action.
Keywords: migraine; nitroglycerine; magnetic resonance angiography; cerebral blood flow; middle meningeal artery
Abbreviations: BA=basilar artery; CGRP=calcitonin gene related peptide; ECA=external carotid artery; ICA=internal
carotid artery; MCA=middle cerebral artery; MMA=middle meningeal artery; NTG=nitroglycerine; PCA=posterior
cerebral artery; 3T MRA=3 Tesla magnetic resonance angiography
Received February17 , 2008. Revised April 8, 2008. Accepted April 22, 2008. Advance Access publication May 23, 2008
Migraine is a neurovascular disorder typically characterized
by attacks of severe, throbbing,
associated autonomic symptoms and, in one third of
patients, focal neurological aura symptoms (Goadsby et al.,
2002). Since the seminal work by Wolff and colleagues
(Wolff, 1948), showing that stimulation of cerebral and
meningeal arteries caused headache, there is a widespread
belief that vasodilatation of intracranial blood vessels is the
underlying mechanism for migraine headache (Ferrari and
Saxena, 1993). This hypothesis was further fed by a number
of other observations. Balloon dilatation of the middle
cerebral artery (MCA) may cause migraine-like headache
(Nichols et al., 1990). Vasoactive substances such as the
nitric oxide donor nitroglycerine (NTG) (Thomsen et al.,
1994) and calcitonin gene related peptide (CGRP) (Lassen
et al., 2002) can trigger migraine in susceptible subjects.
In fact, the recent development of novel CGRP antagonists
for treating migraine attacks was at least partly based on the
hypothesis that prevention or reversal of vasodilation would
block migraine headache (Olesen et al., 2004; Doods et al.,
2007). Animal and in situ pharmacological experiments
(Goadsby et al., 2002; Tfelt-Hansen et al., 2000) and human
in vivo studies using transcranial Doppler (Iversen et al.,
1990; Friberg et al., 1991; Thomsen et al., 1995) have shown
that acute anti-migraine agents (ergots and triptans)
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constrict cerebral and meningeal blood vessels (Edvinsson
et al., 2005). In fact, the triptan class was specifically
designed to selectively constrict intracranial blood vessels
(Ferrari and Saxena, 1993).
The role of vasodilatation in migraine has been vividly
debated in the past [for review see: (Humphrey and
Goadsby, 1994)] and more recently (Goadsby et al., 2002;
Parsons and Strijbos, 2003). Some researchers view vasodi-
lation of meningeal or cerebral blood vessels as a primary
trigger for migraine headaches, and consider vasoconstric-
tion necessary for acute anti-migraine efficacy (Villalon
et al., 2003). Others feel that vasodilation is a secondary
phenomenon, due to activation of the trigeminovascular
system and release of vasoactive neuropeptides. Vasodila-
tion would primarily be involved in sustaining and worsen-
ing of the headache during migraine attacks (Waeber and
Moskowitz, 2005). A third line of thinking holds that
vasodilation is irrelevant or, at best, ‘an innocent bystander’
in the pathogenesis of migraine headache. Consequently,
vasoconstriction may not be needed to treat migraine
headaches (Hoskin et al., 1996a, b; Goadsby, 2005). This
would be an enormous advantage as the currently available
most effective anti-migraine agents, triptans and ergots, all
possess (sometimes strong and sustained) vasoconstrictor
activity (Ferrari et al., 2001). They may cause myocardial
and cerebral ischaemia in patients with (risk factors for)
vascular disease (Dodick et al., 2004). Novel anti-migraine
agents, which are devoid of vasoconstrictor activity, would
be safer and could thus also be used by the many
migraineurs with vascular disease.
Remarkably, the three opposing views on the role of
vasodilation in migraine are all primarily based on extra-
polations of observations in experimental animal models,
with very little evidence from human studies. This is pri-
marily due to lack, until recently, of sensitive non-invasive
imaging techniques to directly and reliably assess intracra-
nial blood flow and blood vessel diameters in humans.
Previous studies have used invasive methods such as carotid
angiography (Masuzawa et al., 1983), or could only indi-
rectly estimate diameter changes of cerebral blood vessels
using transcranial Doppler (Friberg et al., 1991; Markus,
2000). Meningeal blood vessels proved too small to be
investigated quantitatively. With the advent of 3 Tesla
magnetic resonance imaging (3T MRA) a sensitive and
non-invasive imaging technique has become available to
reliably measure intracranial blood flow and diameter
changes of cerebral and meningeal blood vessels (Krabbe-
Hartkamp et al., 1998) as small as the middle meningeal
artery (MMA) (Schoonman et al., 2006).
Infusion of NTG can reliably and faithfully provoke
migraine headaches in migraineurs (Thomsen, 1997; Sances
et al., 2004; Afridi et al., 2005b). The response to NTG
infusion is typically biphasic: an initial, brief and mild
bilateral headache during the infusion in nearly all migraine
and non-migraine study subjects (Afridi et al., 2005b),
followed by a typical migraine, 4–5h later, in 60–80%
of migraine, but not in non-migraine study subjects
(Thomsen et al., 1994; Sances et al., 2004). The symptom-
atology of provoked attacks is no different from that of
spontaneous attacks of migraine without aura (Thomsen
et al., 1994), including premonitory symptoms (Afridi et al.,
2004), response to anti-migraine drugs (Iversen and Olesen,
1996), and increase of CGRP, a marker for activation of the
trigeminovascular system (Juhasz et al., 2003). This provo-
cation model has greatly facilitated the logistics of studying
pathophysiological changes during migraine attacks.
In the present study, we used 3T MRA to intra-
individually compare: (i) blood flow in the basilar (BA)
and internal carotid arteries (ICA) and (ii) the diameters of
the external carotid arteries (ECA), ICA, MCA, BA, poste-
rior cerebral arteries (PCA) and MMA between three con-
ditions: (a) at baseline, outside an attack; (b) during
infusion of NTG or placebo (to assess the immediate vas-
cular effects of NTG) and (c) during NTG-provoked
migraine attacks or, if no attack had occurred, at 6h
post-infusion (to assess whether migraine attacks are
associated with vasodilatation). We will demonstrate that
there is no detectable vasodilation of cerebral or meningeal
blood vessels during NTG-provoked migraine attacks,
suggesting that vasoconstriction may not be required to
treat migraine headaches.
In total 32 migraine patients (n=5 with aura; n=27 without aura)
were recruited from the neurology outpatient clinic of Leiden
University Medical Centre. Inclusion criteria were: (i) age between
18 years and 55 years; (ii) diagnosis of migraine according to the
diagnostic criteria of the International Headache Society (Headache
Classification Committee of the International Headache Society,
2004); (iii) an average attack frequency between 1 and 8 attacks/
2 months in the 6 months prior to the study and (iv) moderate or
severe headache during spontaneous migraine attacks. Exclusion
criteria included: (i)410 days of headache per month; (ii) inability
to differentiate between migraine and other forms of headache;
(iii) contra-indications for the use of triptans; (iv) current use of
vasoactive drugs and (v) MRI-specific contra-indications (such
as claustrophobia). The study was approved by the local medical
ethics committee and the subjects gave informed consent prior
to the start of the study.
Experimental procedure and NTG provocation
All subjects arrived at the hospital between 8a.m. and 10a.m. on
the day of the study. No medication, coffee, tea or alcohol was
allowed in the 12h prior to the start of the experiment. From
1hour before the experiments until the very end of the exper-
iments, study subjects were not allowed to smoke. Patients had to
be free of migraine for at least the 3 days prior to the study day
and they could not have any form of headache at the beginning of
Migraine patients (n=32) were scanned: (i) at baseline, outside
an attack; (ii) during randomly allocated and double-blind
infusion of NTG (0.5mg/kg/min over 20min; n=27) or placebo
A 3T MRA studyBrain (2008),131, 2192^22002193
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(n=5) and (iii) during an ensuing migraine attack or, if no
migraine had occurred, at 6h after infusion. The duration of the
scan sessions was ?25min. The study subjects remained in the
scanner between the baseline and the NTG or placebo infusion
scanning sessions, which began 10min after onset of the infusion.
Heart rate and blood pressure were monitored during the
experiments. Two days after the experiment, subjects were
contacted by telephone to check whether a migraine attack had
occurred beyond the 6-hour time window (Ferrari and Saxena,
Placebo administration was included in the protocol to
minimize patient and observer’s bias for diagnosing whether or
not NTG infusion had provoked a migraine headache [as this
diagnosisis basedon subjective
Headache Society, 2004)]. We choose for an unequal and
incomplete allocation to receiving NTG or placebo mainly for
two reasons. First, NTG administration was only used as a well-
established tool to provoke migraine attacks. Our study objective
was primarily to assess intra-individual changes from baseline,
rather than comparing the effect of NTG with that of placebo.
Secondly, we wanted to minimize the number of patients who
would contribute only very little to the study results (placebo was
only given for masking reasons) to reduce unnecessary burden to
patients, investigators and MRI scanning time (the study protocol
was very time consuming).
The MR investigations were performed on a 3.0-Tesla whole-body
system (Philips Medical Systems, The Netherlands). The MRA
protocol consisted of two parts, one to assess blood vessel
diameter changes and one to assess blood flow changes.
The ‘blood vessel diameter protocol’ consisted of a thick 2D
phase contrast sagittal localizer survey through the circle of Willis,
followed by a 3D time-of-flight MRA sequence to visualize the BA
and ECA, ICA, PCA and MCA on both sides. This scan had the
following imaging parameters: repetition time/echo time: 22ms/
3.5ms; flip angle 15?; field of view: 220?220mm; number of
excitations: 1; sliceorientation:
0.65mm; number of slices: 200; scan percentage 100%, matrix
reconstruction size: 512?512 resulting in a nominal voxel size (x,
y, z) of 0.43?0.43?0.65mm; total acquisition time: 4min 30s.
Based on the reconstruction of this 3D-time-of-flight, a second
3D-time-of-flight with a higher spatial resolution was performed
to visualize the extra- and intra-cranial parts of the MMA on both
sides. This scan had the following imaging parameters: repetition
time/echo time: 15ms/2.1ms; flip angle 15?; field of view:
transverse; slice thickness: 0.25mm; number of slices: 130; scan
percentage 100%, matrix reconstruction size: 512?512 resulting
in a nominal voxel size (x, y, z) of 0.39?0.39?0.25mm; total
acquisition time: 8min 31s.
For the ‘blood flow protocol’, a 2D phase contrast section was
positioned on the basis of two thick slab localizer MRA scans in
the coronal and sagittal plane at the level of the skull base,
perpendicular on the ICA and BA, to measure the flow volume.
The MRA flow volume measurements in the present study are
derived from previously developed and optimized protocols (Spilt
et al., 2002a, b; Bakker et al., 1995, 1996). Acquisition parameters:
repetition time/echo time: 16ms/8.5ms; flip angle 10?; field of
transverse; slice thickness:
number ofexcitations: 1; slice orientation:
view: 150?150mm; number of excitations: 20; slice orientation:
transverse; slice thickness: 5.0mm; number of slices: 1; scan
percentage 100%; phase contrast velocity encoding: 140cm/s;
matrix reconstruction size: 256?256 resulting in a nominal voxel
size (x, y, z) of 0.59?0.59?50mm; total acquisition time: 56s.
Figure 1 illustrates the positioning of the 2D phase contrast
section through the ICA and BA. On an independent workstation,
quantitative flow values were calculated in each vessel by
integrating across manually drawn regions of interest that enclosed
the vessel lumen closely.
Image post-processing: diameter calculations
All MRA images were transferred to a remote workstation for
quantitative analysis using the Quantitative-MRA (QMRA) soft-
ware package developed at our institution. A full description of
the contour detection methods used and the validation have been
described previously (de Koning et al., 2003). The software
provides automated contour detection and quantification of the
luminal boundaries in selected vessel segments in 3D MRA
datasets. The only user interaction required is the definition of the
vessel segment of interest by placing a proximal and distal point in
the 3D dataset. Subsequently, the software detects a 3D path line
following the centre of the vessel lumen and cross-sectional
multiplanar recontructions are generated perpendicular to the
centreline at 0.5mm intervals. In each of these multiplanar
recontructions, a contour around the vessel lumen is detected
automatically. From these contours, based on the assumption of
circular vessel cross-sections, the average diameter of the selected
vessel segment is derived. Blood vessel segments were selected as
follows: (i) the MMA was measured in an extra-cranial segment
(from the origin at the maxillary artery to the end, 5–6mm
distally; Fig. 2); (ii) the ECA from the origin at the superficial
temporal artery to the end, 10mm proximally; (iii) the ICA from
just proximally of the syphon to the end, 15mm distally; (iv) the
MCA, onset after A1 segment and end 8mm distally; (v) the BA,
from the origin at the PCA to the end 12mm proximally; (vi) the
PCA, beginning at the origin at BA and end 8mm distally.
Location of measured vessel segments were kept constant within
Fig.1 MRA, coronal maximum intensity projection. Horizontal
line indicates the positioning of the 2D phase contrast section
through the ICA and the BA.
2194 Brain (2008),131, 2192^2200 G.G. Schoonman et al.
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We first tested the left-to-right differences in diameters for
bilateral blood vessels (MMA, ICA, ECA, MCA and PCA) using
paired t-tests. Since the differences were not statistically sig-
nificant, we only present the mean diameters for the right and left
blood vessels throughout the manuscript. The effect of NTG and
migraine attack on blood vessel diameters and blood flow were
tested using a linear mixed model. Patients with a migraine attack
(n=20) were compared with patients without an attack after NTG
(n=7). Data from patients receiving placebo were not used for
statistical testing. P50.05 was considered statistically significant.
Clinicaleffects of infusion of NTGorplacebo
In total 32 migraine patients were randomly infused with
either NTG (N=27) or placebo (N=5). Demographic
characteristics of the study population are summarized in
Table 1. No attack occurred after placebo (0/5). In contrast,
infusion of NTG provoked a migraine attack (all without
aura) in 20/27 (74%) migraine patients after a median time
of 3.75h (range: 1.5–5.5h). In 18/20 attacks the headache
was unilateral (left: n=9; right n=9). The clinical charac-
teristics of the patients who developed a migraine attack in
response to NTG and the clinical features of the provoked
attacks are summarized in Supplementary Table s1.
Side-to-side differences for
blood vessel diameters
There were no (P40.05) right-to-left differences for the
diameters of the four bilateral blood vessels (MMA, ICA,
ECA, MCA, PCA) in any of the three conditions (data not
shown),except forthe MCA
(P=0.024). This difference was considered not significant
after correction for multiple testing. Similarly, in the 18
significant (P40.05) differences between the diameters on
the headache and the non-headache side (Supplementary
Table s4). Therefore, the mean diameters of the right and
left blood vessels are presented throughout the article.
headache, there wereno
Diameter and blood flow changes during
infusion of NTG or placebo
During NTG infusion there was a significant vasodilatation
of all blood vessels compared with baseline (Fig. 3A–F and
Supplementary Table s2; P50.01 for all blood vessels). The
diameter increase was greatest in the extra-cerebral blood
vessels (MMA and ECA), ranging from 16.4% to 30.3%, as
compared with 6.7–20.7% diameter increase in the intra-
cranial blood vessels (ICA, MCA, BA and PCA). During
infusion of placebo, there were no changes in diameter for
any of the blood vessels. There were no changes in ICA or
BA blood flow during infusion of NTG or placebo (Fig. 4A,
B and Supplementary Table s3).
Diameter and blood flow changes
during migraine attacks
(P40.05) diameter changes during attacks for any of the
blood vessels (Table 2 and Fig. 3A–F). This was also true
when controlling for the headache side in the 18 patients
with an unilateral headache; the changes on the headache
side were no different compared with those on the non-
headache side (Supplementary Table s4). Similarly, there
were no significant (P40.05) differences when comparing the
mean diameter changes (baseline versus attack) in the 20
patients who developed a migraine attack after NTG with the
changes (baseline versus 6h post-infusion) in the seven
patients who did not develop an attack and were measured
6h after infusion. The attack versus no-attack change-
differences were for the MMA=0.06mm (95% CI:?0.8
to 0.21), for the ECA=0.05mm (95% CI:?0.14 to 0.24),
therewere no significant
Fig. 2 MRA of the MMA region and position of the measured
segment: (A) maxillary artery, (B) MMA.
T able1 Demographic characteristics of study participants
NTG (27) Placebo (n=5)
Yes (n=20)No (n=7)No
Age in years (SD)
Ratio MO to MA
MO=migraine without aura; MA=migraine with aura.
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Fig. 3 (A^F) Mean blood vessel diameter changes (mean of left and right in bilateral vessels) in six selected intracranial blood vessels at
baseline, during infusion of NTG or placebo, and during an NTG-provoked migraine or, if no attack had occurred, at 6h after infusion.
[filled circle=migraine patients (NTG) with a provoked attack, filled triangle=migraine patients (NTG) without an attack, cross=migraine
patients (placebo) without an attack].
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for the ICA=0.06mm (95% CI:?0.19 to 0.31), for the
MCA=?0.13 (95% CI:?0.41 to 0.14), for the BA=?0.24
(95% CI:?0.59 to 0.11) and for the PCA=?0.02 (95%
CI:?0.22 to 0.18). There were also no significant (P40.05)
changes in total-, BA- or ICA-blood flow during a migraine
attack when compared with baseline, nor were there
significant (P40.05) differences in the changes observed
during attacks when compared with the changes in the
patients who did not develop an attack and were measured
6h after infusion (Table 3) (Supplementary Table s4).
We used a well-established NTG provocation model to
induce faithfully migraine attacks and a highly sensitive,
non-invasive 3T MRA technique to visualize and measure
even small intra-individual diameter changes of cerebral
and meningeal blood vessels. Contrary to longstanding and
widespread belief, we failed to detect any evidence for a
clinically relevant vasodilatation of major cerebral or
meningeal blood vessels during migraine attacks. This
finding has important implications for the understanding
of the pathophysiology of the migraine headache and the
development of future anti-migraine agents. Novel anti-
activity as predicted earlier (Goadsby et al., 1990).
In our provocation experiments, we infused NTG over a
20min period and observed a vessel-dependent 7–30%
vasodilatation at 10min after beginning of the infusion. The
vasodilatatory effect is believed to be due to a direct local
effect of nitric oxide on vascular smooth muscle cells
(Andresen et al., 2006) or through the release of vasoactive
peptides such as CGRP (Strecker et al., 2002; Wei et al.,
1992). Our findings on the early vascular effect of NTG are
in accordance with those of (Hansen et al., 2007). Using
1.5T MRA they found a peak vasodilatation at 10–15min
after beginning of the NTG infusion and a normalization of
the vascular diameters back to baseline at 45min after
stopping of the infusion. For logistic reasons, we did not
scan at 45min after the infusion to confirm normalization
of the blood vessel diameter. However, in view of the well
known short duration of action of NTG (Abrams, 1985)
and the observed time course of the early vascular responses
by (Hansen et al., 2007), we feel confident that blood vessel
diameters had returned to baseline by 1h after the second
(infusion) scan. Therefore, it seems justified to compare
measurements during attacks with those obtained at
baseline, before infusion.
The most important finding of the present study is that
migraine headache was not associated with a clinically
relevant vasodilatation of major cerebral or meningeal
blood vessels, not even when controlled for headache side.
We feel confident that this was not due to too low a
sensitivity of the detection method. The very fact that we
were able to detect an early transient vasodilatation in
response to NTG of as low as 7% shows that the method
we used is sufficiently sensitive to measure even small
diameter changes. The clinical relevance of smaller changes
is doubtful as during NTG infusion, we observed an up to
30% increase in blood vessel diameter without associated
migraine headache. Our results are also in agreement with
at least some older transcranial Doppler studies failing
to show blood velocity changes indicative for vasodi-
latation during migraine attacks (Caekebeke et al., 1992;
Fig. 4 (A and B) Mean blood flow in ICA (mean of left and right)
and BA at baseline, during infusion of NTG or placebo, and during
an NTG-provoked migraine or, if no attack had occurred, at 6h
after infusion. [filled circle=migraine patients (NTG) with a
provoked attack, filled triangle=migraine patients (NTG) without
an attack, cross=migraine patients (placebo) without an attack].
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Zwetsloot et al., 1993; Limmroth et al., 1996; Gori et al.,
2005) Finally, BA and ICA blood flow did also not change
during migraine attacks. Cerebral blood flow is dependent
on cardiac output, arterial calibre and vasomotor tone in
small resistance vessels (Guyton, 2006). As blood pressure
(as a measure for cardiac output; data not shown) and the
BA and ICA diameters had not changed, it seems likely that
there were also no changes in the intracranial resistance
microvasculature during migraine attacks. In conclusion,
our data seem to refute an important role of cerebral or
meningeal vasodilatation in causing migraine headache.
This would certainly be in accordance with observations that
non-vascular mechanisms, such as exposure to sildenafil,
(Kruuse et al., 2003) are capable of inducing migraine attacks.
Potential limitations of our study include that we did not
measure just before or at the onset of the migraine head-
ache. We could thus have missed a brief transient vasodi-
latation at the very beginning of the migraine headache.
Although unlikely, we cannot exclude this possibility.
Another important question is whether and to what
extent NTG-provoked migraine attacks are similar to
spontaneous attacks. There are strong clinical and patho-
physiological arguments in favour of this notion. The
clinical symptoms and features, including the occurrence of
T able 2 Mean blood vessel diameters (mean of right and left for bilateral blood vessels) of six selected intracranial blood
vessel at baseline and during an NTG-provoked migraine attack or, if no attack had occurred, at 6h after infusion in 32
N (A) Baseline mm(SD)(B) During
at 6h mm (SD)
Change (B versus A)
0.24 (7 .7)
There were no significant changes in diameter during the migraine attack.
T able 3 Blood flow in the BA and ICA (mean of left and right) in migraine patients at baseline and during a migraine attack
or, if no attack had occurred, at 6h after infusion of NTG or placebo
Blood vessel Inter-vention Migraine
N (A) Blood flow
baseline ml/min (SD)
(B) Blood flow
or at 6 h
Difference (B versus A)
177 .2 (71.9)
542.0 (21 1.1)
720.1 (97 .7)
Difference between patients with an attack compared with patients without an attack after NTG were not significant.
2198 Brain (2008),131, 2192^2200G.G. Schoonman et al.
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premonitory symptoms several hours before the headache
(Afridi et al., 2004) and the response to anti-migraine drugs
(Iversen and Olesen, 1996), are strikingly similar between
spontaneous and NTG-induced attacks. Likewise, in both
there is an increase of CGRP in jugular venous blood
(Goadsby et al., 1990; Juhasz et al., 2003) and activation of
the dorsal rostral brainstem on positron emission tomog-
raphy (Weiller et al., 1995; Bahra et al., 2001). The fact that
NTG provokes migraine aura’s only rarely, even in patients
with migraine with aura (Christiansen et al., 1999; Afridi
et al., 2005a), seems to point at a trigger site of action
beyond the aura triggering mechanism. We thus feel
confident that our findings in NTG-provoked attacks can
be extrapolated to spontaneous migraine headaches.
In this study, we did not observe significant changes in
blood vessel diameter or blood flow during the headache
phase of provoked migraine attacks. However, there were
some (non-significant) changes in the posterior circulation
that need to be discussed. First, the diameter of the BA did not
return to baseline levels, unlike the other blood vessels. This
was, however, true for both patients who had developed a
delayed migraine headache and for those who had not.
Secondly, the blood flow in the BA was decreased (although
not significantly) from 174ml/min at baseline to 129ml/min
in patients who had developed a migraine headache after
developed a migraine headache. Whether these findings are
clinically relevant, needs to be explored. A tentative correla-
tion, for instance, could be made with previous findings of in
previous studies our group has shown our group demonstrat-
ing increased prevalence of pontine hyperintensities and
cerebellar infarcts in migraineurs from the general population
(Kruit et al., 2004, 2006).
We conclude that, contrary to a longstanding and
widespread belief, cerebral and meningeal diameter changes
in migraine attacks, if at all happening, appear not to be of
primary importance to the pathophysiology of the migraine
Supplementary material is available at Brain online.
This study was supported by the Netherlands Organisation
for Scientific Research (NWO grant 940-38-029) and an
unrestricted grant from Almirall Prodespharma.
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