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What is basilar artery migraine?

A basilar artery migraine is one of many types of migraine headaches; it can be felt on both sides of the back of the head.

Our approach

The Headache Center of Northwell Health Institute for Neurology and Neurosurgery specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of headaches caused by neurological and psychiatric illnesses as well as hard-to-treat migraines.


This uncommon type of migraine headache usually starts with experiencing an “aura” 10 to 45 minutes prior to the headache. An aura is one or more symptoms that act as a warning sign that a bad headache is coming. Symptoms include:

  • Dizziness
  • Double vision
  • Lack of coordination or balance
  • Ringing in the ear(s)
  • Vertigo
  • Slurred speech

Basilar migraines can last from 4 to 72 hours and can be debilitating. In rare cases, the syndrome can lead to stroke or coma.


Basilar artery migraines can be inherited through several genes and influenced by your lifestyle and factors in the environment. In rare cases, this type of migraine could be caused by a change (mutation) in certain genes. Sometimes, it’s caused by having basilar artery syndrome.

Risk factors

This condition can happen to people of all ages; although, it often starts during the teen years, and women are more likely to develop this condition than men.

Types of treatment

Neurodiagnostic tests, such as MRIs and CT scans are sometimes required to rule out other disorders that have similar symptoms. Patients are usually given nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as aspirin and ibuprofen) for pain, as well as medications that help with nausea and dizziness.

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