A nitric oxide donor (nitroglycerin) triggers genuine migraine attacks

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Supersensitivity to induction of headache and arterial dilatation by a donor of nitric oxide (nitroglycerin) has recently been demonstrated in migraine sufferers. The aims of the present study were to examine whether the nitric oxide donor nitroglycerin may induce a typical migraine attack, to exclude placebo-related effects and to describe the relation between middle cerebral artery dilatation and provoked migraine. Nitroglycerin (0.5 μg/kg/min for 20 min) or placebo was infused into 12 migraine patients in a double-blind cross-over trial. Blood velocity in the middle cerebral artery was measured with transcranial Doppler and characteristics of headache and accompanying symptoms were recorded frequently. Headache occurred during the nitroglycerin infusion as previously described but peak headache intensity did first occur 5.5 h after infusion. At this time the induced headaches in 8 of 10 completing patients fulfilled the diagnostic criteria for migraine without aura of the International Headache Society. Furthermore, all patients who normally had unilateral spontaneous migraine attacks also had unilateral headaches after nitroglycerin. Only one subject developed migraine after placebo (p < 0.03). The time pattern of headache and estimated middle cerebral artery dilatation corresponded well. The study therefore demonstrates that activation of the nitric oxide cGMP pathway may cause typical migraine attacks.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean journal of neurology : the official journal of the European Federation of Neurological Societies
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)73-80
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - Sep 1994

ID: 128984233