MONDAY, Oct. 10 (HealthDay News) -- The sooner people can cross
their legs after having a stroke, the better their chances for
recovery, new research suggests.
This complicated movement, occurring within two weeks of a
stroke, is a good sign that the brain is processing again,
"It looks simple, but it's very complex," said Dr. Naveen Goyal, director of the Stroke Center at the Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York City. "It requires a good amount of strength because the leg is such a heavy part of the body. Also, coordination is required. Then there's the ability to tell one side of the body from the other side."
Goyal was not involved with the study, which appears in the Oct.
11 issue of
Using leg crossing to assess patients would be simple for
clinicians, much simpler than standard tests to gauge disability,
said the study authors.
And it could quickly help direct patients into the right
treatment, they said.
"Of course, every survivor after severe stroke should get the maximal intensive rehab, but when we know that leg movement is possible we could switch to more specific training programs," said study senior author Dr. Berend Feddersen, assistant professor of neurology at the University of Munich in Germany.
Stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain stops because of a
blocked or ruptured blood vessel. It is the third leading cause of
death and the leading cause of disability in developed
Several scales have been developed to predict recovery, but
these usually are administered by trained professionals and may
only provide information up to three months' post-stroke.
For this study, the researchers followed 34 patients who crossed
their legs within 15 days of a stroke and 34 who did not cross
their legs in that critical time frame.
All participants had had severe stroke and were in intensive
care units (ICUs), some with ventilators.
Over the course of a year, 20 patients crossed their right leg
over their left, while 13 crossed the left over the right. One
patient crossed both legs, and six were able to cross the leg that
had been paralyzed or partially paralyzed by the stroke over the
"Nobody was instructed to cross the legs, and maybe we missed short crossings, but in the ICU, the nurses are very vigilant and good observers," said Feddersen.
Following instructions would have required even more brain
The leg crossers had fewer neurological impairments and were
able to walk independently. The non-leg crossers were "severely
disabled and required constant attention," the study reported.
The most dramatic differences were seen in death rates: Only one
patient in the leg crossing group died in that one year compared
with 18 in the other group.
"Crossing of the leg is a very simple test and can be done by anyone. Family members can do it," Goyal said.
Larger studies should be undertaken to confirm the test's
reliability, the researchers said. This inexpensive tool might also
be used with other conditions treated in the ICU, they added.
The U.S.-based National Stroke Association has more on