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Stroke Health Center

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Crossing Legs May Be Sign of Stroke Recovery

Study Shows Patients Who Cross Their Legs Soon After a Stroke Have Better Chance of Recovery

Signs of Recovery From Stroke continued...

A year after leaving the hospital, more differences in stroke recovery emerged:

One person in the leg-crossing group vs. 18 in the non-leg-crossing group died.

People who were able to cross their legs had lower levels of disability, were more likely to be able to walk unassisted, and were only moderately disabled. Non-leg-crossers were more likely to have severe disability requiring constant attention.

Leg crossers had significantly higher levels of independence compared with the non-leg-crossers. Feddersen says all of the leg crossers were lying down and most were unconscious when they crossed their legs in the first few days after a stroke while in the intensive care unit.

He says leg crossing may mark the first noticeable return of ability to move your limbs, which is often the first step in stroke recovery. Other types of movement, like crossing arms, may also be equally predictive of good stroke recovery but may happen too fast for doctors or nurses to notice.

Predicting Stroke Recovery

Researchers say the next step will be to compare the accuracy of leg crossing in predicting stroke recovery vs. established methods in a larger, prospective study.

The most commonly used method to predict stroke recovery following a stroke is the NIH stroke scale, which requires extensive evaluation by a health care professional.

"We know this is not sufficient to give us a very accurate predictor of prognosis," says Pierre Fayad, MD, director of the Stroke Center at the Nebraska Medical Center.

For example, the people in this study all had similar NIH stroke scale scores on admission to the hospital, but leg crossers went on to have much better recovery rates.

Fayad says if further studies confirm the results of this study, leg crossing may offer a simple tool that goes beyond NIH scores to predict stroke recovery.

"It is quite intriguing and something that has not come up on the radar screen before," says Fayad, who is also the Reynolds Centennial Professor of Neurology at the University of Nebraska Medical Center. "It's a brand new concept. It is something simple everyone can notice and doesn't need specialized training to recognize."

"But we need to be sure that it is a reliable sign before we start acting upon it and making decisions based on it that may impact a patient's long-term treatment or care," says Fayad.

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