NATIONAL - Nearly 30 million Americans suffer from migraines, and heart surgeons think there's a link between painful headaches and a small hole in the heart.
Researchers are now testing a new bio-absorbable heart plug to see if it can use the body's own tissue to close the hole and stop the migraines.
49-year-old Theresa Bell has been battling migraines since childhood and is tired of missing work and losing time with her family because of her painful headaches.
"If I could get my migraines down to one or two even a month, I would be happy," said Bell.
Cardiologist Mark Reisman is investigating the link between migraine and a small hole in the heart, called a Patent Foramen Ovale, or PFO. He's testing a new bio-absorbable device designed to plug the hole and potentially end the migraines.
It's implanted in the heart through a catheter and opens like an umbrella to close off the PFO.
Eventually, the umbrella will be absorbed by the body.
Dr. Reisman said, "The frame will still be maintained, but the actual material will ultimately be absorbed or actually almost disintegrate within the body and at the same time the body will heal around the frame of the device in order to securely close the hole."
Researchers say this is a double blind study and plan to enroll 600 patients nationwide who have PFO's and migraines with aura, including Theresa.
"There's so much enthusiasm and there's so much need out there in this particular type of patient who's obviously in the most productive part of their lives often with young children and working that they want to get better because their migraines are so overwhelming," explained Dr. Reisman.
Theresa won't know if she got the placebo or the bio-absorbable device for a year, but she hasn't had a migraine in the month since she enrolled in the study.