Strokes: Drawing test 'may predict risks in older men'

Trail Making Test Drawing lines between ascending numbers- the test needs to be done as fast as possible

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A simple drawing test may help predict the risk of older men dying after a first stroke, a study in the journal BMJ Open suggests.

Taken while healthy, the test involves drawing lines between numbers in ascending order as fast as possible.

Men who scored in the bottom third were about three times as likely to die after a stroke compared with those who were in the highest third.

The study looked at 1,000 men between the ages of 67 and 75 over 14 years.

Of the 155 men who had a stroke, 22 died within a month and more than half within an average of two- and-a-half years.

The researchers think that tests are able to pick up hidden damage to brain blood vessels when there are no other obvious signs or symptoms.

Silent injury

Dr Clare Walton, from the Stroke Association, said: "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.

"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."

Dr Bernice Wiberg, lead author from Uppsala University in Sweden, said: "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."

She also suggested it could help improve information given to patients and their family.

More than 150,000 people suffer a stroke every year.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 78.

    The principle is sound: undetected vascular problems can lead to reduced neurological function in apparently healthy people. This test may identify those people (or those who already had strokes too small to be detected by CT). While it appears to predict those who will have a poor outcome , more importantly it could allow people who test poorly to be monitored as at risk of a stroke

  • rate this

    Comment number 74.

    Is the slower completion speed (of the test) a sign of underlying damage to the brain, etc (which, in turn emphasises the impact of the stroke, and result in quicker death, as highlighted in the article), or simply a sign that someone slower in joining the dots is likely to be slower to respond to the symptoms of a stroke (which, from the FAST campaigns, makes a massive difference)?

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    Thousands of studies are ongoing at the same time, over a period of decades, to produce these breathtaking findings. From the food we eat to the graphs we draw. Every study contradicting another or providing little useful information. Theres certainly no recession when it comes to the scientific community.

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    Interesting, it's not a test to determine the likelyhood of a stroke and so it can't prevent a stroke but it serves to give an indication of the prognosis after the stroke has occurred. It gives doctors and patients a way of predicting how long they can expect to survive.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Don't see what the problem is - it's cheap to implement and isn't any hassle, and it appears to be getting results. It won't work for everyone, but if it works for a few then it's worthwhile. I get the feeling some of the people slamming this without any thought would probably say the same about counselling - again, it didn't work for me personally, but it works for plenty of others. Grow up.


Comments 5 of 6


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