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TV Reporter's Severe Migraine Mimicked a Stroke
Date:2/19/2011

By Steven Reinberg
HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, Feb. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Many people who watched Los Angeles TV reporter Serene Branson suffer what appeared to be a stroke while covering the Grammy awards last Sunday were no doubt relieved to hear her troubles were apparently caused by a severe migraine headache.

Doctors at the University of California, Los Angeles, who performed a brain scan and blood work on Branson, said she suffered a type of migraine -- often called a complex or complicated migraine -- that can mimic symptoms of a stroke, the Associated Press reported Friday.

Dr. Ralph L. Sacco, president of the American Heart Association and chairman of neurology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, explained that "a complicated migraine can often masquerade as a stroke or TIA (transient ischemic attack, sometimes called a mini-stroke)."

The symptoms can look just like a stroke, Sacco said, including loss of vision, blurry vision, paralysis on one side of the body, trouble speaking and trouble walking. "All kinds of things we associate with a TIA or stroke can be part of a complicated migraine," he said.

For people whose first experience with a migraine is a complex migraine, Sacco advises that they assume it is a stroke, however.

"If people have these classic symptoms, we should treat them as the emergency we think they are, which is a possible stroke," he said.

Stroke patients should be taken immediately to a hospital where a potentially life-saving, clot-busting drug known as tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) can be administered.

According to Sacco, a complex or complicated migraine is caused by an electrical malfunction in the brain, which may be triggered by certain chemicals that produce the symptoms. Stroke, however, is caused by restricted blood flow to the brain, he noted.

"A migraine is not just a headache. It's a complicated brain event,"
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