Scientists Track Effectiveness Of Migraine Drugs With Ultrasound

August 15, 1997

WINSTON-SALEM, NC-- A Korean neurologist has found a way to use ultrasound to monitor how well migraine medicine is working and help in preventing the vicious headaches.

Dr. Chin-Sang Chung, director of the Stroke and Headache Program at Samsung Medical Center in Seoul, Korea, said that he has found an objective method for determining the success of treating patients who get migraines, even during the periods when the patient does not have a headache.

Chung will present his findings August 15th at the meeting of International Neurosonology '97 sponsored by the World Federation of Neurology and the Bowman Gray School of Medicine of Wake Forest University.

Chung monitored about 60 migraine patients in the past year using transcranial Doppler ultrasound both before the patients received medication and after six months treatment.

The transcranial Doppler measures the speed at which the blood flows through their arteries in the brain. Migraine patients usually have a high velocity of blood flow, even without a headache, because their blood vessels are constricted and the blood moves at a faster rate, Chung said.

The pain of a migraine headache comes when the blood vessels dilate suddenly. Conventional treatment, such as beta blockers, dilate the vessels to allow for more regular blood flow.

The patients in this study received various prescribed drugs for migraines, including propranolol, valproic acids, antidepressants (amitriptyline or paroxetine), aspirin, or combinations of these drugs.

Two-thirds of the patients reported clinical improvement, Chung said. The transcranial Doppler showed remarkable changes in the blood vessels of the brains of those two thirds. The one third patients with no improvement had little change in their blood vessels.

The ultrasound backed up the clinical findings and gave an objective measure. This can be used as a non-invasive tool for evaluating the success of long-term medications used for the treatment of migraines.

Such research will allow doctors to monitor the efficacy of migraine medicines -- if ultrasound shows high blood velocity, then medication could be given until those blood vessels return to normal -- and the result is a preemptive strike against the headaches.

This is a beginning study, Chung said. Further studies would include more detail, such as measuring the medications against one another.

For further information, call Mark Wright (email: or Bob Conn (email: at 910-716-4587. Once International Neurosonology '97 has begun on August 13, call the conference press room at 910-724-6923.

Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center

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