The present study reports cerebral blood flow (CBF) measurements in 11 patients during attacks of classic migraine (CM)-migraine with aura. In 6 and 7 patients, respectively, cerebral vascular reactivity to increased blood pressure and to hypocapnia was also investigated during the CM attacks. The Xenon-133 intraarterial injection technique was used to measure CBF. In this study, based in part on previously published data, methodological limitations, in particular caused by scattered radiation (Compton scatter), are critically analysed. Based on this analysis and the results of the CBF studies it is concluded:

During CM attacks CBF appears to decrease focally in the posterior part of the brain to a level around 20 ml/100 g/min which is consistent with a mild degree of ischemia. Changes of CBF in focal low flow areas are difficult to evaluate accurately with the Xe-133 technique. In most cases true CBF may change 50% or more in the low flow areas without giving rise to significantly measurable changes of CBF. This analysis suggests that the autoregulation response cannot be evaluated in the low flow areas with the technique used while the observations are compatible with the concept that a vasoconstrictive state, unresponsive to hypocapnia, prevails in the low flow areas during CM attacks.

The gradual increase in size of the low flow area seen in several cases may be interpreted in two different ways. A spreading process may actually exist. However, due to Compton scatter, a gradual decrease of CBF in a territorythat does not increase in size will also appear as a gradually spreading low flow area when studied with the Xe-133 intracarotid technique.