Clinical Research Study| Volume 131, ISSUE 4, P438-441, April 2018

Value of Patient-Directed Brain Magnetic Resonance Imaging Scan with a Diagnosis of Migraine

Published:November 13, 2017DOI:



      The objective of this study was to determine whether a brain magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scan in patients with a diagnosis of migraine, who insist on the performance of imaging, is of more benefit in detecting clinically significant unsuspected structural abnormalities than would be expected by chance.


      This prospective, observational, single-center study was performed from January 1, 2010 to December 31, 2012 and included 100 subjects with a diagnosis of migraine and normal results on neurologic examination. A brain MRI scan was performed on all patients, solely at their request, to detect an unsuspected clinically significant structural lesion.


      Of the 100 patients, 86 were female, and the average age was 31.5 years. Forty-five patients experienced migraine without aura, 41 chronic migraine, and 14 migraine with aura. All of the patients had normal results on neurologic examination. The duration of headaches ranged from 4 months to 40 years. In all, 82 of the MRI scans showed normal results, and 17 revealed clinically insignificant abnormalities. One MRI in a patient with chronic migraine without aura revealed a meningioma that subsequently required surgery and radiation therapy. The 1% prevalence of tumor in this study was then compared with 2 large cohorts of MRI abnormalities in the general asymptomatic population, in which tumor was found in 35 out of 3000. Fisher's exact test was used to compare the prevalence of tumor in the study population with the combined cohorts, and there was no statistical difference between these rates (P > .99).


      Brain MRI obtained at the specific request of patients with a diagnosis of migraine in the presence of normal neurologic examination results has a yield that is equivalent to that of the general asymptomatic population. Patients do not seem to have more insight than the examining clinician with regard to detecting underlying structural abnormalities, and brain MRI should not performed as part of the routine evaluation of migraine without a clear clinical indication.


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