• migraine;
  • stroke risk factors;
  • cerebrovascular reactivity;
  • transcranial Doppler ultrasonography

Background.—Migraine has been reported as a possible risk factor for ischemic stroke. The mechanisms underlying this association are unknown.

Objective.—To evaluate cerebrovascular reactivity to hypercapnia in the anterior and posterior circulation of patients with migraine, as reduced cerebrovascular reactivity is associated with a predisposition to stroke in various clinical conditions.

Methods.—Using transcranial Doppler ultrasonography, changes in flow velocity during apnea were measured in both middle cerebral arteries and in the basilar artery of 15 control subjects and 30 patients with migraine (15 with aura and 15 without aura) during an attack-free period. Cerebrovascular reactivity was evaluated using the breath-holding index, which is calculated by dividing the percent increase in mean flow velocity recorded during a breath-holding episode by its duration (in seconds) after a normal inspiration.

Results.—Vascular reactivity in the middle cerebral arteries was similar in patients and controls and significantly lower in the basilar artery of patients with migraine with aura compared with the other 2 groups (P < .0001).

Conclusions.—These findings show that in patients with migraine with aura, there is an impairment in the adaptive cerebral hemodynamic mechanisms in the posterior circulation. This fact could have pathogenetic implications since the association between migraine and stroke frequently regards patients with migraine with aura, and cerebral infarcts occur more commonly in the vertebrobasilar district.