Hemiplegic Migraine During Pregnancy: Unusual Magnetic Resonance Appearance With SPECT Scan Correlation


Address all correspondence to Dr. Peter J. Barbour, Lehigh Valley Hospital, 1210 South Cedar Crest Boulevard, Allentown, PA 18103.


Objective.—This article discusses the pathophysiology and implications for treatment of hemiplegic migraine within a case study presentation.

Background.—We evaluated a 31-year-old white woman for hemiplegia in her 36th week of pregnancy. She initially presented with severe headache, dysarthria, lethargy, and left-sided numbness and weakness. Hemiplegic migraine remains a diagnosis made by exclusion; neurologic examination of these patients is localizing, but nonspecific.

Design.—Magnetic resonance imaging and single photon emission computed tomography scanning were performed on this patient during an exacerbation of headache associated with dense hemiplegia.

Results.—Magnetic resonance imaging showed a superficial cerebral hemispheric signal abnormality with enhancement. Single photon emission computed tomography scanning confirmed hyperperfusion of that hemisphere.

Conclusions.—We believe the imaging evidence in our patient suggests that hemiplegia was caused and sustained by hyperperfusion. This case lends supportive evidence to a primarily vasodilatory mechanism and hyperperfusion as an etiology of the paralysis in such headaches and perhaps migraine with aura.