New Yale study: One small action helps identify deadly heart disease

Medical researchers at Yale University have found that while aneurysmal disease can be difficult to detect before it ruptures, there is a simple hand self-test that can identify this deadly heart condition early.

Researchers at Yale-New Haven Hospital’s Aortic Institute recently published a research paper in the American Journal of Cardiology describing a very simple self-test (click here for a diagram): simply raise one hand and keep the palm flat, then bend the thumb as far as possible toward If the thumb extends beyond the palm of the hand, the patient may have a hidden aneurysm.

The researchers recommend that this simple self-test be included in routine physical exams, especially for people with a family history of aortic aneurysms.

The study was conducted on 305 patients who underwent heart surgery for various conditions, including ascending aortic aneurysm, valve repair and coronary artery bypass graft.

The researchers found that hand self-testing may be an indicator that a patient’s overgrown bones and loose joints may be a sign of disease in the body’s connective tissue, which includes the aorta.

However, the researchers also stressed that not everyone whose thumb extends beyond the palm of their hand is an aneurysm carrier; and that aneurysms often take decades to develop to the point of rupture, so there is no need to panic about the results of the hand self-test.

Aortic aneurysms are the 13th most common cause of death in the United States, killing about 10,000 people each year, covering adults of all ages. However, when aneurysms are detected early enough, patients can be kept safe with exercise restrictions, radiation monitoring or surgery.

John Elefteriades, William W. L. Glenn Professor of Surgery at Yale University and director emeritus of the Aortic Institute at Yale New Haven Hospital, said their research shows that while most patients with aneurysms do not exhibit the physical characteristic of a thumb that extends beyond the palm of the hand, those with a thumb that extends beyond the boundary of the hand have a high probability of having a hidden aneurysm in their bodies.

The biggest problem with aneurysmal disease is screening out potentially affected individuals in the general population before the aneurysm ruptures, he said.

“Spreading the knowledge of this test is likely to identify silent aneurysm carriers and save lives,” he said. He said.

The researchers concluded that the thumb-palm test “may indicate whether someone has an ascending aortic aneurysm, or a potentially fatal swelling of the large arteries of the heart, and recommended that the test be included in standard medical examinations, especially for those with a family history of aortic aneurysms.”

Elestriade said they have included the thumb-palm test in their teaching for the past 20 years and recommend its use for patients carrying a risk of aneurysm; however, the accuracy of the test has not been evaluated in a clinical setting.