What is the last word on migraine and PFOs?

This is surely one of neurology’s bug bears, the old chestnut. Just when one generation of neurologists thinks it has buried and sealed it in an impervious crypt, it resurrects to haunt the next breed. This cyclical and macabre dance of migraine and PFOs evokes a sense of deja vu every time it comes around. And each spawn of neurologists predictably picks up the gauntlet, answers the call to arms, and sets out to slaughter the ghost of migraines past.

By Lille1982 – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=9682382

But let’s take a step back to basics with some definitions. The foramen ovale is just a ‘hole in the heart‘ between the right and left atria, or upper heart chambers. It is essential in foetal life because it enables circulating blood to bypass the superfluous foetal lungs (apologies to readers across the Atlantic for the superfluous ‘o’!). However, after birth, when blood needs to circulate through the now indispensable lungs, the foramen ovale becomes irrelevant. In most people, the foramen ovale humbly accepts its fate, crawls to a corner, and closes shop. But foramen ovales in some people are recalcitrant; standing their ground, they endure and survive as PFOs.

By DrJanaOfficial – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=50477765

It is not clear how the myth started, but stories of migraine cure following surgical closure of PFO spread rapidly and widely. Very soon, migraineurs where demanding echocardiograms to check if they have PFOs lurking in their tickers. Research trials investigating this issue started as a trickle, and very soon become a flood. But rather than shed light, the conflicting results intensified the darkness. That is, until some indignant and determined neurologists and cardiologists set out to settle the matter once and for all. And the onslaught came in three waves of studies.

MIGRAINE. aka Tman on Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/rundwolf/331545021

The first wave in the attempt to slay the beast of migraine and PFO was a trial published in the journal Headache. Davinia Larrosa and colleagues studied 183 people with migraine and found that, whilst PFOs were larger and more permanent in people with migraine, there was no relationship between patent foramen ovale and migraine frequency.

Migraine spectrum. JoanDragonfly on Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/joandragonfly/26221136058

The second wave was a study published in the European Heart Journal by Heinrich Mattle and colleagues. In their PRIMA trial (Percutaneous Closure of PFO in Migraine with Aura), they blindly allocated or randomized half of their subjects with refractory migraine and PFO to have PFO closure surgery. And their verdict was, PFO closure did nothing to reduce the frequency of migraine.

Open the key to your heart. Maria Eklind on Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/mariaeklind/24659701809

The third wave, launched by Nauman Tariq and colleagues, took a different tack. They carried out a detailed review of practically all the studies that had addressed the subject. Their brilliantly titled paper, “Patent foramen ovale and migraine: closing the debate, reflected their ambition to settle the question once and for all. After an arduous trawl through the literature, and a mind-blowing crunching of statistics, the authors came to the conclusions that “there is no good quality evidence to support a link between migraine and PFO“, and “closure of PFO for migraine prevention does not significantly reduce the intensity and severity of migraine“.

By Patrick J. Lynch, medical illustrator – Patrick J. Lynch, medical illustrator, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1488277

The final word therefore is, leave PFOs alone! But there is a big caveat. There is one situation where PFO is associated with migraine, and that is when it is accompanied by another heart anomaly called an atrial septal aneurysm (ASA). The evidence for this comes from Roel Snijder and colleagues, and the title of their paper says it all: Patent foramen ovale with atrial septal aneurysm is strongly associated with migraine with aura: a large observational study. We already knew that PFO associated with ASA increases the risk of stroke; we can now add to this, the risk of migraine with aura.

By H. Airy – Flatau 1912 “Migrena” monograph after previous publication of H. Airy, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7814450

The debate is now hopefully sealed and settled. But don’t hold your breath for too long: the phantom of migraine and PFO may just rear its hideous head again at a neuroscience centre near you.

 

15 more creative and catchy neurology headlines for 2019

Regular visitors to this blog know that we love catchy article titles. It is always heartwarming to see how some authors create imaginative and inventive headlines. This skill involves the ability to play with words, and the capacity to be double-edged. This is why this blog keeps a lookout for fascinating neurology titles. And in line with this tradition, and in no particular order of inventiveness, here are 15 more catchy neurology titles!

By Andrikkos – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=33725735

15. Who do they think we are? Public perceptions of psychiatrists and psychologists

This paper, for some unfathomable reason, set out to ask if the public knows the difference between what psychiatrists and psychologists actually do. And the authors discovered that “there is a lack of clarity in the public mind about our roles”. More worryingly, or reassuringly (depending on your perspective), they also found out that “psychologists were perceived as friendlier and having a better rapport“. Not earth-shattering discoveries, but what a great title!

By Laurens van Lieshout – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=2059674

14. OCT as a window to the MS brain: the view becomes slightly clearer

Optical coherence tomography (OCT) is a cool tool which measures the thickness of the retinal fiber layer (RFL). And it has the habit of popping its head up in many neurological specialties. In this case, the specialty is multiple sclerosis, and the subject is how OCT influences its diagnosis and surveillance. Surely a window into the brain is easier to achieve than one into the soul.

Optical coherence tomography of my retina. Brewbooks on Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/brewbooks/8463332137

13. A little man of some importance 

The homonculus is the grotesque representation of the body on the surface or cortex of the brain. This paper reviews how formidable neurosurgeons such as Wilder Penfield worked out the disproportionate dimensions of this diminutive but influential man. He (always a man for some reason) has giant hands, a super-sized mouth, very small legs, and a miniature trunk. The clever brain doesn’t readily allocate its resources to large body parts that perform no complex functions! But be warned, this article is no light-weight reading!

The Homunculus in Crystal Palace (Moncton). Mark Blevis on Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/electricsky/1298772544

12. Brain-focussed ultrasound: what’s the “FUS” all about? 

This title is a play on words around MR-guided focussed ultrasound surgery (MRgFUS), an emerging technique for treating disorders such as essential tremor and Parkinson’s disease (PD). This review looks at the controversial fuss that this technique has evoked.

By Luis Lima89989 – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=19162929

11. The Masks of Identities: Who’s Who? Delusional Misidentification Syndromes

This paper explores the interesting subject of delusional misidentification syndromes (DMSs). The authors argue that few concepts in psychiatry can be as confusing as DMSs. And they did an excellent job of clearing our befuddlement around delusions such as Capgras and Fregoli. Very apt title, very interesting read.

no identity. HaPe-Gera on Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/hape_gera/2929195528

 

10. Waking up to sleeping sickness.

This title belongs to a review of trypanosomiasis, aka sleeping sickness. It is a superb play on words, one that evokes several levels of meaning. It is simple and yet complex at the same time. Great imagination.

https://picryl.com/media/the-sleeping-sickness-gordon-ross

09. Brains and Brawn: Toxoplasma Infections of the Central Nervous System and Skeletal Muscle

This paper discusses two parts of nervous system that are affected by toxoplasmosis. Playing on the symbolic  contradiction between intellect and strength, the authors show how toxoplasmosis is an ecumenical abuser: it metes out the same fate to both brain and brawn.

Brain vs. Brawn. Yau Hoong Tang on Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/tangyauhoong/4474921735

08. Shedding light on photophobia

A slightly paradoxical title this one. Ponder on it just a little more! And then explore the excellent paper shedding light on a condition that is averse to light.

Photophobia (light sensitivity). Joana Roja on Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/cats_mom/2772386028/

07. No laughing matter: subacute degeneration of the spinal cord due to nitrous oxide inhalation

Nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, is now “the seventh most commonly used recreational drug”. But those who pop it do so oblivious of the risk of subacute combined degeneration. This damage to the upper spinal cord results from nitrous oxide-induced depletion of Vitamin B1 (thiamine). Not a laughing matter at all!

Empty Laughing Gas Canisters. Promo Cymru on Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/promocymru/18957223365

06. To scan or not to scan: DaT is the question

Dopamine transport (DaT) scan is a useful brain imaging tests that helps to support the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease and other disorders which disrupt the dopamine pathways in the brain. It is particularly helpful in ruling out mimics of Parkinson’s disease such as essential tremor. When to request a DaT scan is however a tricky question in practice. This paper, with its Shakespearean twist, looks at the reliability of DaT scans.

Dopamine. John Lester on Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/pathfinderlinden/211882099

05. TauBI or not TauBI: what was the question?

It should be no surprise if Shakespeare rears his head more than once in this blog post. Not when the wordsmith is such a veritable source of inspiration for those struggling to invent catchy titles. This paper looks at taupathy, a neurodegeneration as tragic as Hamlet. It particularly comments on an unusual taupathy, one induced by traumatic brain injury. Curious.

By Lafayette Photo, London – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress‘s Prints and Photographs divisionunder the digital ID cph.3g06529.This tag does not indicate the copyright status of the attached work. A normal copyright tag is still required. See Commons:Licensing for more information., Public Domain, Link

04. Mind the Brain: Stroke Risk in Young Adults With Coarctation of the Aorta

What better way to call attention to a serious complication than a catchy title like this one. This paper highlights the neurological complications of coarctation of the aorta, a serious congenital cardiovascular disease. And the key concerns here are the risks of stroke and cerebral aneurysms. Cardiologists, mind the brain!

Own work assumed (based on copyright claims)., Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=803943

03. Diabetes and Parkinson disease: a sweet spot?

This paper reviews the unexpected biochemical links between diabetes and Parkinson’s disease. And this relationship is assuming a rather large dimension. Why, for example, are there so many insulin receptors in the power house of Parkinson’s disease, the substantia nigra? A sweet curiosity.

Insulin bubble. Sprogz on Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/sprogz/5606839532

02. PFO closure for secondary stroke prevention: is the discussion closed?

The foraman ovale is a physiological hole-in-the-heart which should close up once a baby is born. A patent foramen ovale (PFO) results when this hole refuses to shut up. PFOs enable leg clots to traverse the heart and cause strokes in the brain. This paper reviews the evidence that surgically closing PFOs prevents stroke. Common sense says it should, but science demands proof. And the authors assert that they have it all nicely tied up. Hmmm.

By Kjetil Lenes – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=3705964

01. Closure of patent foramen ovale in “cryptogenic” stroke: Has the story come to an end?

Not to be beaten in the catchy title race is another brilliant PFO review article. Why do I feel the answer here is ‘no’? This is science after all.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/fliegender/293340835

 

The art of spinning catchy neurology headlines

The Neurology Lounge is always on the lookout for catchy neurology article titles to adorn its shelves. My previous blog post in this quest was The art of spinning catchy titles.

Since then, there have been quite a few brilliant article titles that have caught my fancy. We must acknowledge the wordsmiths who craftily and meticulously think up these magical headlines; they put in a lot of thought to conjure up the right words to use. The look into their crystal balls to predict the best way to play around with the meanings. With a bit of lexical alchemy, they miraculously come up with the titles that make us do a double-take, but do so with a smile. Below are 9 such catchy titles.

Parkinson’s disease: Oh my gut! 

By The original uploader was Arnavaz at French WikipediaThis image is an old version created by Medium69.Cette image est une ancienne version créée par Medium69.Please credit this : William Crochot – http://www.cancer.gov, Public Domain, Link

This title reflects the science suggesting that Parkinson’s disease originates from the gut. This editorial restates the proposition that α-synuclein starts accumulating in the intestines before migrating, up the vagus nerve, ‘in a prion-like fashion’, to the brain.

Patent foramen ovale and migraine: closing the debate

Medical Illustrations by Patrick Lynch, generated for multimedia teaching projects by the Yale University School of Medicine, Center for Advanced Instructional Media, 1987-2000.

Patent foramen ovale (PFO) is a hole in the heart which connects the upper two heart chambers, or atria. It normally closes after birth, but in some people it persists to cause some grief to cardiologists and neurologists. Whether a PFO causes migraine or not is a long standing contentious issue in Neurology. The authors of this study found no link between migraine and (PFO). The title is brilliant, but the tone of finality is probably premature; I guess this debate is far from over.

Migraine and inhibitory system – I can’t hold it!

Human brain on white background. _DJ_ on Flikr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/flamephoenix1991/8376271918

And still on migraine is this headline grabber. A bit on the basic science spectrum, I quote from the abstract to give you a flavour: ‘This review focuses on recent structural and functional neuroimaging studies that investigated the role of subcortical and cortical structures in modulating nociceptive input in migraine, which outlined the presence of an imbalance between inhibitory and excitatory modulation of pain processing in the disease‘. I would rather stick with the punchy headline myself.

On the nose: olfactory disturbances in patients with transient epileptic amnesia

Big Nose Strikes Again. Bazusa on Flikr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/bazusa/260401471

This research paper establishes a link between transient epileptic amnesia (TEA) and impairment of the sense of smell. TEA continues to surprise, and there is indeed quite a lot to chew in the paper.

Myelitis in neuromyelitis optica spectrum disorder: the long and the short of it

By JasonRobertYoungMDOwn work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

This is a clear play on the defining feature of neuromyelitis optica (NMO), a long segment of inflammation in the spinal cord. This is what neurologists call longitudinally extensive transverse myelitis (LETM). This is an excellent editorial, worthy of the headline. It emphasises the point that NMO really has no defining features, not even the presence of the ‘defining’ antibody, anti-aquaporin 4- just ask anti-MOG NMO about this

AEDs after ICH: preventing the prophylaxis

By BobjgalindoOwn work, GFDL, Link

How do you prevent a harmful preventative practice?. By a paper with a title that is pure genius of course. The authors of this paper highlight the persisting, anti-guideline, practice of using prophylactic antiepileptic drugs (AEDs) in people who have had intracerebral haemorrhage (ICH). The paper rhetorically asks if this has ‘become a habit too difficult to break?’ Not going by this catchy headline!

Paralysis lost: a new cause for a common parasomnia?

Sleepwalking. Gareth on Flikr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/trois-tetes/7240877

Parasomnias are diseases that occur during or related to sleep. This headline is for an editorial on a new parasomnia called anti IgLON5 antibody disorder. This is the subject of my previous blog post titled IgLON5: a new antibody disorder for neurologists. The headline writer here is clearly a fan of John Milton. I however struggled to make the connection between the excellent headline and the subject of the paper. I however presume it relates to the ‘loss of sleep paralysis‘ that accompanies many sleep disorders, including the quintessential parasomnia- REM sleep behaviour disorder (RBD). Excellent title anyway.

Hereditary spastic paraplegia: the pace quickens

By Rawlings, Leo – http://media.iwm.org.uk/iwm/mediaLib//150/media-150073/large.jpgThis is photograph Art.IWM ART LD 6040 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums., Public Domain, Link

With a slightly wicked wit, this headline focuses on the slow walking speed of people with hereditary spastic paraplegia (HSP), contrasting this with the increasing research output on the disease. A bit dated I admit, but the paper refers to work which identified the genetic basis of SPG3, one of the commoner HSPs. A lesson in headline writing from the archives you may say.

Cut your losses: spastin mediates branch-specific axon loss

Synapse. Ben Cadet on Flikr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/47814009@N00/2943548161

The headline is brilliant, but the content goes way over my head. It is an editorial on a basic science paper. For the curious and the nerdy, I quote an extract: ‘during synapse elimination in the developing neuromuscular junction, branch-specific microtubule destabilization results in arrested axonal transport and induces axon branch loss. This process is mediated in part by the neurodegeneration-associated, microtubule-severing protein spastin‘. Enough I hear you say. OK, just stick with the headline.

***

Do you have any catchy titles-please drop a comment.

_________________________________________________________________________