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Drawing test can predict stroke deaths

A “simple” drawing test can predict the long-term risk of dying among older males after their first stroke, research suggests.

Age and impaired brain capacity heightens the risk of death and disability following a stroke.

A study published in BMJ Open analysed the test results assessing the intellectual capacity of just under 1,000 men aged between 65 and 75 who had not been diagnosed as having had a stroke.

Two tests were used.

The first was the Trail Making Test (TMT), in which participants were asked to draw lines with a pencil between numbers and letters in ascending order as quickly as possible.

The second was the mini mental state exam - usually used to test for dementia - set out general cognitive tasks such as orientation, memory and numeracy.

During the 14-year monitoring period from 1991 to 2006, 155 men who took part in the study had their first major or minor stroke.

Just over half of them (54%) died within an average of 2 and a half years, with 22 dying within a month of their stroke.

The researchers found those who had performed badly in the TMT were more likely to have died.

Furthermore, it was found those men whose TMT scores were in the bottom 30% were around three times as likely to have died after their stroke as those men who scored in the highest 30%.

No association between poor MMSE scores and death following a stroke was found.

It is suggested TMT is “likely” to pick up latent cognitive impairments, caused by a silent cerebrovascular disease that has not yet produced overt symptoms.

“TMT tests may not only be used as tools for identifying risk of stroke, but may also be considered important predictors of post stroke mortality,” said the researchers.