Regularly monitoring a persons pulse after a stroke might be a simple and effective first step in detecting irregular heartbeat, a major cause of having a second stroke, according to new research.
Patients can even monitor their own pulse after a stroke, according to the study, which was published July 23 on the website of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
Screening pulse is the method of choice for checking for irregular heartbeat for people over age 65 who have never had a stroke, study author Bernd Kallmünzer, MD, with University of Erlangen in Erlangen, Germany, said in a news release. 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.
For the study, 256 people who had experienced an acute ischemic stroke and the patients relatives were given instructions on measuring the pulse to detect irregular heartbeat, including atrial fibrillation. The measurements taken from the participants and healthcare professionals then were compared with a recording of electrical activity in the heart, which showed 57 of the participants had irregular heartbeats.
The study found that pulse measurement taken by healthcare professionals had a sensitivity of nearly 97% and a specificity of 94% in detecting irregular heartbeats. Sensitivity is the percentage of actual positives that are correctly identified as positive, and specificity is the percentage of negatives that are correctly identified. For patients relatives, the sensitivity was 77%, and the specificity was nearly 93%.
For patients taking their own measurements, nearly 89% performed reliable measurements with a sensitivity of 54% and specificity of 96%. False positive results occurred in six people and false negative results in 17 people.
The low rate of false positives in this study shows that healthcare professionals, caregivers and patients can be guided to use this simple tool as a first step in helping to prevent a second stroke, Kallmünzer said in the release.
Study abstract: www.neurology.org/content/early/2014/07/23/WNL.0000000000000690.short?rss=1