>Hemiplegic Migraine

Medical Student Clinical Pearl – January 2020

Alyssa BeLong, B.Sc.(Hon)

Dalhousie Medicine New Brunswick

M.D. Candidate, Class of 2021

Reviewed and Edited by Dr. David Lewis


Case Presentation

A 45-year-old female presented with sudden-onset left-sided vision loss, right arm paralysis and auditory changes 24 hours ago. She subsequently developed a throbbing pain (6/10) behind her left eye which radiated over her scalp, with a sensation of water dripping down the back of her neck. Her symptoms resolved within 30 minutes except for ongoing headache and photophobia.


Differential Diagnosis

A variety of conditions may present with transient unilateral weakness or hemiplegia: (4)

  • Hemiplegic Migraine
  • Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA): Typically present with sudden onset of all symptoms rather than progression from one to another. A TIA is also less likely to present with headache, nausea, photophobia, photophobia.
  • Brain Tumor: Typically present as progressive rather than transient neurologic symptoms.
  • Epilepsy with Post-Ictal Paralysis: Would expect paroxysmal symptoms at time of onset or change in level of consciousness as well as post-ictal confusion. Duration of symptoms also makes this unlikely.
  • Stroke-like Migraine Attacks After Radiation Therapy (SMART)
  • Other possible but rare/unlikely diagnoses include headache and neurologic deficits with cerebrospinal fluid lymphocytosis (HaNDL), CNS infection, Sturge-Weber syndrome as well as certain inherited disorders and metabolic disturbances.

Case Continued – History and Physical Exam

Clarification of visual field disturbance revealed a left homonymous hemianopia rather than loss of vision in the left eye. There was no change in speech or facial droop. There were no precipitating events and there were no alleviating or aggravating factors. The patient noted herself to be particularly stressed lately. She was otherwise healthy with a past medical history of migraines without aura many years prior. Family history was negative for thromboembolic events, she was not taking any medications and had no history of smoking or substance use.

On physical exam, the patient appeared well with all vital signs within normal limits. Cranial nerve exam was unremarkable apart from ongoing photophobia in her left eye. There was normal motor, strength, sensation, tone and reflexes bilaterally. There was no evidence of gait disturbance or dysdiadochokinesia.


Migraine Overview

Migraines typically present as severe episodic headaches often accompanied by photophobia, phonophobia and/or nausea, however presence of an aura can yield a variety of presentations. Migraines are currently thought to be neurologic in origin, although the exact pathophysiology remains unknown (2). Migraines were previously thought to be due to vascular changes, with vasodilation causing headache and vasoconstriction causing aura, however this theory is no longer viable (2).

Migraines affect 17% of women and 6% of men, with an overall prevalence of 12% (2). Migraines typically flow through four phases (2):

  1. Prodrome: Change in affect or vegetative symptoms 24-48hrs prior to onset of headache.
  2. Aura: Focal neurologic symptoms, including visual, sensory, language or motor disturbance.
  3. Headache: Often unilateral but can be bilateral, typically throbbing or pulsatile in quality, frequently accompanied by photophobia, phonophobia, nausea or vomiting.
  4. Postdrome: Sudden movement may trigger transient pain in location of the resolved headache.

While many types of migraines exist, 75% of migraines do not have an aura (2). Some patients also experience aura without headache. Factors thought to be involved in precipitation of migraine include stress, menstruation, fasting, weather, nitrates, wine and visual triggers (2, 3).  

Hemiplegic Migraine

  1. At least two attacks fulfilling criteria B and C
  2. Aura consisting of both of the following:
    1. Fully reversible motor weakness
    2. Fully reversible visual, sensory and/or speech/language symptoms
  3. At least two of the following four characteristics:
    1. At least one aura symptom spreads gradually over ≥5 minutes, and/or two or more symptoms occur in succession
    2. Each individual non-motor aura symptom lasts 5 to 60 minutes, and motor symptoms last <72 hours
    3. At least one aura symptom is unilateral
    4. The aura is accompanied, or followed within 60 minutes, by headache
  4. Not better accounted for by another ICHD-3 diagnosis, and transient ischemic attack and stroke have been excluded

Familial hemiplegic migraine requires one first or second degree relative to meet the above criteria for hemiplegic migraine. Sporadic hemiplegic migraine encompasses those who do not meet familial criteria. (4, 5).

  1.  

Treatment

Treatment of acute migraine in the emergency department follows similar principles to abortive management in an outpatient setting (6):

Abortive Agents

  • Triptans
    • Sumatriptan 6mg SC
  • Antiemetics / Dopamine Receptor Blockers
    • Metoclopramide 10mg IV, Prochlorperazine 10mg IV or Chlorpromazine 0.1mg/kg IV up to 25mg IV)
    • Diphenhydramine: given with parenteral antiemetics to prevent akathisia or dystonia. 12.5-25mg IV (q1h up to two doses)
  • Dihydroergotamine 1mg IV + Metoclopramide 10mg IV can be given if Metoclopramide monotherapy is ineffective.
  • Dexamethasone 10-25mg IV (or IM): Recommended in conjunction with the above treatments to lower risk of early headache recurrence.

In general, hemiplegic migraines can be treated the same as typical migraine with aura (4). Triptans and ergotamine are currently contraindicated due to their effect on vasoconstriction and theoretical risk of ischemic events, although this recommendation may change with evolving theory of migraine pathophysiology (4, 7).

Opioids are not recommended as first-line therapy and should not be routinely used in the acute management of migraine (6, 8).  


Case Continued – Treatment

The following medications were given in the emergency department:

  1. 10mg Metoclopramide IV
  2. 1mg Benztropine IV (for prevention of dystonia)
  3. 10mg Dexamethasone IV

Case Conclusion

The patient’s headache resolved with IV medications. She was advised to take it easy and consider scaling back on her shifts at work – a significant source of her stress. The patient was very pleased with her treatment and was discharged home.


Sources

  1. Donnelly K (2011). Homonymous Hemianopsia. In: Kreutzer J.S., DeLuca J., Caplan B. (eds) Encyclopedia of Clinical Neuropsychology. Springer, New York, NY. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-0-387-79948-3_739
  2. Cutrer F. Pathophysiology, clinical manifestations, and diagnosis of migraine in adults. In: UpToDate, Eichler A (Ed), UpToDate, Waltham, MA. (Accessed on December 23rd, 2019.)
  3. Martin VT, Behbehani MM (2001). Toward a rational understanding of migraine trigger factors. Medical Clinics of North America 85(4):911.
  4. Robertson C. Hemiplegic Migraine. In: UpToDate, Eichler A (Ed), UpToDate, Waltham, MA. (Accessed on December 23rd, 2019.)
  5. Headache Classification Committee of the International Headache Society (IHS) (2013). The International Classification of Headache Disorders, 3rd edition (beta version). Cephalalgia 33(9):629-808. DOI: 10.1177/0333102413485658
  6. Smith J. Acute Treatment of Migraine in Adults. In: UpToDate, Eichler A (Ed), UpToDate, Waltham, MA. (Accessed on December 23rd, 2019.)
  7. Russell MB, Ducros A (2011). Sporadic and familial hemiplegic migraine: pathophysiological mechanisms, clinical characteristics, diagnosis, and management. Lancet Neurology 10(5):457-70. DOI: 10.1016/S1474-4422(11)70048-5
  8. Friedman BW, West J, Vinson DR, Minen MT, Restivo A, Gallagher EJ (2015). Current management of migraine in US emergency departments: an analysis of the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey. Cephalalgia 35(4):301.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email