Is there a link between the sodium concentration in cerebrospinal fluid and migraines?

Written by Francis Davies

Migraines present a challenge where diagnosis is concerned owing to a broad range of variable characteristics and attack-types exhibited by patients. While many people suffering with migraines are thought to go undiagnosed and untreated, many others suffer from different, more common, types of headache such as the tension variety.
Using a magnetic resonance technique known as sodium MRI  this study, led by Melissa Meyer (Institute of Clinical Radiology and Nuclear Medicine, University Hospital Mannheim and Heidelberg University, Germany), examined 24 women with a mean age of 34 , becoming the first study to employ this technique with migraine patients.

The researchers divided participants into two equal groups: one with members previously evaluated for migraines and a control group of healthy women. The participants filled out a questionnaire regarding the details of length, intensity, frequency of attacks and migraine auras, before undergoing cerebral sodium MRI. Sodium concentrations of each group were then compared and statistically analyzed.

The findings indicated no statistical differences between the two groups for sodium concentrations in grey and white matter in both the brain stem and the cerebellum. Cerebrospinal fluid analysis, however, revealed distinct differences between the respective sodium concentrations – in migraine sufferers the overall sodium concentrations were significantly higher than those of healthy control group subjects.

The findings may ultimately facilitate an easier method of migraine diagnosis and researchers hope to explore the effect of sodium on migraines in future studies. Meyer commented: “As this was an exploratory study, we plan to examine more patients, preferably during or shortly after a migraine attack, for further validation.” The results were presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA) (26 November –1 December, IL, USA) .

Sources: Meyer M, Schmidt A, Benrath J et al. Cerebral sodium (23Na) magnetic resonance imaging in patients with migraine vs. healthy controls. Presented at Radiological Society of North America Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL, USA. 26 November – 1 December 2017;