March 20, 2013
A jumbled text message could help diagnose a stroke
Mounting evidence now suggests there’s a new symptom to be aware of to help diagnose a storke, one that may even allow us to sound the alarm remotely: the garbled text message. Slate reports.
Dr. Omran Kaskar and colleagues at the Henry Ford Medical Center in Detroit have written a case study to report the story of a 40-year-old man who sent strange texts to his wife while he was away on business. At first, the messages seemed to nothing more than disjointed thoughts or slips of the thumb: “Oh baby your” and “I am happy.”
Then, two minutes later: “I am out of it, just woke up, can’t make sense, I can’t even type, call if ur awake, love you.”
At the hospital, a battery of tests failed to discover any overt signs of stroke beyond mild facial drooping. (Even that more familiar symptom disappeared by the next day.) “He could read, he could write. He wrote a full sentence for us no problem. He spoke fluently,” Dr. Omran Kaskar, senior neurology resident at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, told me. “The only issue he had was typing the text message.”
To learn more, doctors gave him a smartphone and instructed him to type, “The doctor needs a new Blackberry.” The patient typed instead, “Tjhe Doctor nddds a new bb.” When he was shown the text and asked to identify any mistakes, the man saw nothing wrong. These results helped diagnose an acute ischemic stroke. They also confirmed the most interesting case to date of dystextia—one in which muddled text messages were the sole manifestation of a patient’s stroke.
... As the largest generation in U.S. history ages, such warning signs could be increasingly useful for rapid diagnosis. The timestamps of relevant texts may even help doctors piece an event history together. This can be critical in the occurrence of stroke, where various circumstances lead to oxygen depletion of the brain and time is of the essence. Or as Dr. Kaskar put it, “Time is brain.
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