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  • Dr Ross Sharpe

Migraine and PFO link

Updated: Dec 3, 2019

The cause of migraine is dependent on multiple environmental and genetic factors. It is commonly accepted that migraine is a neurological disorder, but our studies show that for some people, a cardiac condition is a major contributing factor – thus our neuro-cardiac clinic, Cardio Remedy, was borne.

The link to PFO


We’ve discovered one contributor to migraine is the shunting of unfiltered blood straight to the brain, which should have been passed through the lungs for filtration. The reason it missed this filtration process, is due to a PFO, also known as ‘a hole in the heart’, which allows unprocessed blood, full of biochemicals, to circulate around the body.

The theory is the large load of these biochemicals that are reaching the brain and causing havoc can be reduced by closing the ‘hole’ - reducing the severity and frequency of migraine, or in some cases, eliminating it altogether.

The PFO does not cause the migraine but is a trigger or antagonist likely providing higher concentrations of biochemicals into the arterial blood stream.

Could my migraine be from a PFO?


Patients suffering from very debilitating migraine with aura are far more likely to have a very large PFO. The published figure is around 50%, but based on my own research with severe and frequent migraine with aura, the figure appears to be around 70-80%.

Neurological symptoms such as visual aura, tingling arms and face, partial or complete limb paralysis, changes to speech and cognition associated with headache or migraine are more predictive of a patient having a PFO.

Patients who suffer from migraine without aura are still twice as likely to have a PFO than the general population.

What can I do?


If you fit the above criteria, visit your GP for a referral to our specialised neuro-cardiac clinic, Cardio Remedy. You can find a referral form here.

Eligible patients can also join my research project through the PFO Research Foundation.