Pregnant Woman Diagnosed With Stroke Due To Garbled Text Messages
December 26, 2012

Pregnant Woman Diagnosed With Stroke Due To Garbled Text Messages

Lawrence LeBlond for - Your Universe Online

Doctors from Harvard Medical School in Boston report in the Archives of Neurology of a new medical phenomenon called “Dystextia.” The phenomenon was adopted after the doctors had an unusual case come through their doors recently.

It involves a young pregnant woman, her husband, and a cell phone. The woman had just left her doctor´s office after inquiring about her baby´s due date when the husband sent her a text message on her phone asking for what news she got.

To which her reply was: “every where thinging days nighing” and then “some is where!”

The text, which confused the husband, left him startled and concerned that something was wrong since he knew the auto-correct feature had been switched off on his wife´s phone. Fearing the worst, he met up with his wife and rushed her to the ER. It was then that doctors learned she had several signs of a stroke, including disorientation, inability to use her right arm and leg properly and difficulty speaking.

“The dystextia was the first clinical sign that we had that she was having a stroke,” Dr. Joshua Klein, of Brigham and Women´s Hospital in Boston, told Michaeleen Doucleff of NPR´s Shots health news.

While impaired speech is a common indicator of a stroke, Klein said the young wife´s voice was actually impaired due to a severe cold. So the garbled texting on her phone was the smoking gun in this case.

Klein acknowledged that the dystextia was not essential in diagnosing the woman´s stroke. He said the doctors would have figured out from other tests they ran and from her other symptoms, such as the numbness in her arm and impaired mobility.

And an MRI of the woman´s brain showed that a key region involved with language was also not getting enough blood. Fortunately for the woman, her symptoms were minor and went away fairly quickly. The stroke also had not affected her pregnancy.

This case suggests that “the growing digital record will likely become an increasingly important means of identifying neurological disease, particularly in patient populations that rely more heavily on written rather than spoken communication,” report the doctors.

The doctors said this is not the first time Dystextia has been linked to a stroke. One other time a similar texting case occurred, as well as one case involving a migraine, which can also produce neurological symptoms, such as difficulty speaking and vision loss.

However, messing up on texting can be linked to other more mundane activities as well. Walking, driving, drinking and other distractions can all produce equally illegible texts. So if the texter is producing strange messages on his or her phone, it does not always mean there is a medical emergency.

Klein said that particular warning signs of stroke do include difficulty formulating words, and when trying to text, that difficulty, along with numb or weak fingers or sudden vision loss can play out in the text message. Many smartphones now have autocorrect functions that introduce erroneous word substitutions that “can give the false impression of a language disorder,” he noted.

However, in the pregnant woman´s case, that feature was turned off, Klein remarked.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), about 11,000 women under the age of 35 have a stroke each year, a relatively rare occurrence compared to the numbers of strokes seen in the population as a whole.

Dr. Sean Savitz, director of the stroke program at the University of Texas Health Science Center (UT Houston), said he has seen a few patients who sent emails suggesting they were having difficulty with language, a condition known as aphasia. But such clues usually come with other information.

In the case of the pregnant woman, her obstetrician later recalled that she had difficulty filling out one of the health forms. And the doctor´s office may have been able to pick up on a problem via her language if it were not for the fact she was suffering an upper respiratory infection that was affecting her voice.

“So, this case report per se does not indicate to me if dystextia is going to be more common to pick up strokes,” Savitz told Reuters Health´s Ivan Oransky by email. “But I do think it will be a valuable addition to the collection of information that neurologists should obtain when taking a history.”

Savitz agreed that the autocorrect feature on smartphones can confuse matters.

“I have often joked with my colleagues when using the dictation of the smartphone, that it gives me an aphasia,” he said. “Potential for lots of false positives!”