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Migraine associated with increased risk of stroke after surgery

Patients who experience migraines have a greater risk of stroke and readmission to hospital after undergoing surgery, say researchers from Harvard Medical School in the United States. 

Migraines should be included in stroke risk assessments for patients undergoing surgery, say researchers. Picture: iStock

They studied 124,558 surgical patients at Massachusetts General Hospital and two affiliated community hospitals between January 2007 and August 2014, 771 of whom had a stroke. 

Of the patients who had a stroke, 11.5% experienced migraine. The researchers found that 2.3% had migraine with aura – where there are warning signs such as flashing lights before the onset of migraine – and 9.2% had migraine without aura. 

By the age of 75, one in five women and one in six men will have a stroke.

Source: Stroke Association 

The researchers estimated that 2.4 strokes would be seen for every 1,000 surgical patients, with the risk increasing to 4.3 for every 1,000 patients with a migraine diagnosis. The risk of stroke was highest among patients who experienced migraine with aura – 6.3 for every 1,000 patients compared with 3.9 for migraine without aura. 

The likelihood of readmission to hospital was 1.31 times higher for patients with migraine than for those without. 

The researchers said that migraine should be included in patients’ risk assessment of stroke before undergoing surgery. ‘Physicians should be aware of this perioperative risk, particularly in patients with migraine who present without traditional risk factors for stroke,’ they said. 

Timm FP et al (2017) Migraine and risk of perioperative ischemic stroke and hospital readmission: hospital based registry study. BMJ. doi: 10.1136/bmj.i6635 


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