New Research Suggests Eyes May Provide Clues to Stroke Outcomes

A neurosurgeon based in Yakima, Washington. In addition to managing his private practice, neurosurgeon Dr. Michael Thomas guided the creation of the Yakima Regional Medical Center Neurosciences and Stroke Care Center.

It is often said that eyes are the window to the soul, but when it comes to neurological conditions, they also may be able to provide invaluable insights about the brain. Recently, a team from the Yakima Neurociences and Stroke Care Center presented at the 2015 International Stroke Conference a study that suggested a potential method of predicting stroke outcomes quickly and noninvasively.

The team, headed by lead researcher and assistant professor of neurology Vishnumurthy Hedna, MD, examined the eyes of 86 patients, taking several measurements on both the first and second days after they were hospitalized for strokes. By examining the thickness of the optic nerve via ultrasound, the team looked for signs of increased pressure from brain swelling, which often occurs in the days following a stroke.

According to the team’s findings, patients with larger optic nerves displayed measurably higher risks of death or disability. For each millimeter of additional thickness, the risk of death was four times higher in patients who experienced an ischemic stroke. In patients who experienced a hemorrhagic stroke, it was six times higher.

Current methods to measure brain swelling rely on spinal taps or devices inserted within the skull, though Dr. Hedna suggests that the method of measuring optic nerves may provide a helpful tool to aid physicians in making informed treatment decisions sooner.


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