Last updated on April 20, 2014 at 5:20 EDT

Drawing Test May Diagnose Death Following Stroke

May 10, 2012

Connie K. Ho for RedOrbit.com

A new test, discussed in the journal BMJ Open, could possibly predict if an older man will die after a first stroke.

Participants in the study had to draw lines between numbers in ascending order as quickly as they could. The findings show that men who found themselves placed in the bottom third of scores were three times more likely to die after a stroke as compared to those who scored in the upper third echelon. Researchers believe that the tests show subjects´ hidden damage to brain blood vessels when no other obvious signs or symptoms appear.

The data was taken from the Uppsala Longitudinal Study of Adult Men. In the study, 1,000 men between the ages of 67 and 75 participated. The scientists observed them over a period of 14 years. Overall, 155 men had strokes; 22 died within a month and more than half passed away within two and a half years.

The Independent details the experiment, stating that the analysis was done with the Trail Making Test (TMT) and the Mini Mental State Exam (MMSE) that´s used to diagnose dementia. The research team also theorizes that the TMT can track latent cognitive impairments initiated by silent cerebrovascular disease.

In the report, the authors noted a few strengths of the experiment.

“Our study has strengths. It is based on a large community-based sample, and it has a long follow-up with a large number of persons with incident stroke, non-existent loss to follow-up and extensive information on traditional risk factors, reducing the risk of confounding. All stroke and TIA cases have been examined in detail through medical records,” the researchers wrote in the article.

The scientists also took into account the weaknesses of the study, such as the fact that only Caucasian men were observed in the experiment.

“Limitations include an unknown generalisability to women and to other age and ethnic groups, as only men of similar age and ethnic background were examined,” noted the researchers in their report.

According to a BBC article, this information could affect 150,000 people who suffer from strokes each year.

“This is an interesting study because it suggests there may be early changes in the brain that puts someone at a greater risk of having a fatal stroke,” commented Dr. Clare Walton of the Stroke Association in the BBC article. “This is a small study and the causes of poor ability on the drawing task is not known. Although much more research is needed, this task has the potential to screen for those most at risk of a severe or fatal stroke before it occurs so that they can benefit from preventative treatments.”

“As the tests are very simple, cheap and easily accessible for clinical use, they could be a valuable tool – alongside traditional methods like measuring blood pressure (and) asking about smoking – for identifying risk of stroke, but also as a possible important predictor of post-stroke mortality,” remarked lead author Dr. Bernice Wilberg of the Department of Public Health and Caring Sciences/Geriatrics at Uppsala University in Sweden in the BBC article.

Source: Connie K. Ho for RedOrbit.com