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Migraine Headache and Ischemic Stroke Risk: An Updated Meta-analysis

A history of migraine headache is associated with a 2-fold increased risk of ischemic stroke. Ischemic stroke risk may be further increased in patients with aura and in women. Risk factor reduction should be considered in high-risk patients who have other modifiable stroke risk factors.


Observational studies, including recent large cohort studies that were unavailable for prior meta-analysis, have suggested an association between migraine headache and ischemic stroke. We performed an updated meta-analysis to quantitatively summarize the strength of association between migraine and ischemic stroke risk.


We systematically searched electronic databases, including MEDLINE and EMBASE, through February 2009 for studies of human subjects in the English language. Study selection using a priori selection criteria, data extraction, and assessment of study quality were conducted independently by reviewer pairs using standardized forms.


Twenty-one (60%) of 35 studies met the selection criteria, for a total of 622,381 participants (13 case-control, 8 cohort studies) included in the meta-analysis. The pooled adjusted odds ratio of ischemic stroke comparing migraineurs with nonmigraineurs using a random effects model was 2.30 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.91-2.76). The pooled adjusted effect estimates for studies that reported relative risks and hazard ratios, respectively, were 2.41 (95% CI, 1.81-3.20) and 1.52 (95% CI, 0.99-2.35). The overall pooled effect estimate was 2.04 (95% CI, 1.72-2.43). Results were robust to sensitivity analyses excluding lower quality studies.


Migraine is associated with increased ischemic stroke risk. These findings underscore the importance of identifying high-risk migraineurs with other modifiable stroke risk factors. Future studies of the effect of migraine treatment and modifiable risk factor reduction on stroke risk in migraineurs are warranted.

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— June T. Spector, MD, MPH, Susan R. Kahn, MD, MSc, Miranda R. Jones, BA, Monisha Jayakumar, BDS, MPH, Deepan Dalal, MBBS, MPH, Saman Nazarian, MD

This article originally appeared in the July 2010 issue of The American Journal of Medicine.

One Response to “Migraine Headache and Ischemic Stroke Risk: An Updated Meta-analysis”

  1. That is bitter research study that is going to make every migraine patient sad.There is a lot of stress on the mind due to reasons of headache and otherwise on the patient which need to be treated as well.