Your Eyes Are The Window To Your Stroke Risk, Literally

First Posted: Feb 12, 2015 02:29 PM EST

The eyes say it all, at least when it comes to stroke predictions.

Researchers at the University of Florida Gainesville believe that they may have hold clues about a stroke patient's survival.

For the study, they measured the sheath on the surrounding optic nerve that connects the eye and the brain. While measuring the thickness of the sheath, some researchers could spot patients who were at a higher risk of death within days or months due to the pressure.

Eighty-six patients suspected of having a buildup of pressure in the skull were examined and required to undergo an ultrasound to assess the optic nerve.

"Ultrasound on the optic nerve can be used to test your brain for swelling, which sometimes occurs after a major stroke," said study author Dr. Vishnumurthy Hedna, an assistant professor of neurology at the university, in a news release. "This can be done by looking at the nerve diameter behind your eye with ultrasound images, since it is thought that when your brain swells, pressure gets transmitted towards your eyes."

Due to brain swelling, nerve sheath diameters are typically enlarged in stroke patients.

The findings revealed that the larger the diameter of the optic nerve sheath, the higher the risk of being disabled from a stroke after or death. They found that patients with ischemic strokes showed a higher sheath diameter if they were closer to death than others, at 5.8 millimeters to 5.3 millimeters, respectively.

The average diameter in patients with a bleeding (hemorrhagic) stroke was about 6.2 millimeters in those who died later and 5.7 millimeters in those who survived.

Every new millimeter in sheath diameter increased the risk of death within six months and was four times higher in patients with ischemic stroke. It was even six times higher in those with a bleeding stroke.

The study results could mean big changes for invasive procedures that measure the pressure, including a spinal tap.

More information regarding the findings was presented at the American Stroke Association's International Stroke Conference 2015.

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