Simple Screening Could Help Prevent Second Stroke

Stroke patients self tested for irregular heart rates as signs of another stroke

(RxWiki News) Stoke patients are at an increased risk of having a second stroke in the months after the first one. New research may provide information that can help patients, families or caregivers know if another stroke is coming.

New research from a German medical team found that stroke patients and their families or caregivers can be trained to take accurate pulse readings to detect an irregular heart rate, a potential sign of another stroke.

"Learn how to accurately measure your pulse."

Bernd Kallmünzer, MD, of Erlangen University in Germany, was the primary author of the study.

Dr. Kallmünzer and his associates set out to examine the accuracy of measuring the pulse at the radial artery in the wrist as a noninvasive screening tool for an irregular heartbeat in patients with acute ischemic stroke.

An acute ischemic stroke occurs when blood supply to the brain is cut off by a blood clot obstructing a blood vessel.

An irregular heart rate can indicate an impending second stroke, the researchers reported.

The research team recruited 256 patients who had an acute ischemic stroke. Along with their relatives, the patients were instructed on how to measure pulse, which was then compared to a recording of heart activity.

The electrical readings indicated that 57 of the 256 participants had irregular heart rates. When the patients took self-measurements, 89 percent performed reliable measurements.

Participants correctly identified an irregular heartbeat approximately 54 percent of the time. They identified regular heartbeats with 96 percent accuracy, the study authors reported.

"Screening pulse is the method of choice for checking for irregular heartbeat for people over age 65 who have never had a stroke,” Dr. Kallmünzer said in a press statement. “Our study shows it may be a safe, effective, noninvasive and easy way to identify people who might need more thorough monitoring to prevent a second stroke.

"The low rate of false positives in this study shows that health care professionals, caregivers and patients can be guided to use this simple tool as a first step in helping to prevent a second stroke."

The study authors said the study's small sample size was a limitation to their work.

This study was published online July 23 in the peer-reviewed journal NeurologyThe research did not require any specific funding and the authors did not disclose any conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
July 23, 2014