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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Deviation of eyes and head in acute cerebral stroke

M Fruhmann Berger1, RD Proß1, UJ Ilg2 and H-O Karnath1*

Author Affiliations

1 Section Neuropsychology, Center of Neurology, Hertie-Institute for Clinical Brain Research, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany

2 Oculomotor Laboratory, Hertie-Institute for Clinical Brain Research, University of Tübingen, Tübingen, Germany

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BMC Neurology 2006, 6:23  doi:10.1186/1471-2377-6-23

Published: 26 June 2006

Abstract

Background

It is a well-known phenomenon that some patients with acute left or right hemisphere stroke show a deviation of the eyes (Prévost's sign) and head to one side. Here we investigated whether both right- and left-sided brain lesions may cause this deviation. Moreover, we studied the relationship between this phenomenon and spatial neglect. In contrast to previous studies, we determined not only the discrete presence or absence of eye deviation with the naked eye through clinical inspection, but actually measured the extent of horizontal eye-in-head and head-on-trunk deviation. In further contrast, measurements were performed early after stroke onset (1.5 days on average).

Methods

Eye-in-head and head-on-trunk positions were measured at the bedside in 33 patients with acute unilateral left or right cerebral stroke consecutively admitted to our stroke unit.

Results

Each single patient with spatial neglect and right hemisphere lesion showed a marked deviation of the eyes and the head to the ipsilesional, right side. The average spontaneous gaze position in this group was 46° right, while it was close to the saggital body midline (0°) in the groups with acute left- or right-sided stroke but no spatial neglect as well as in healthy subjects.

Conclusion

A marked horizontal eye and head deviation observed ~1.5 days post-stroke is not a symptom associated with acute cerebral lesions per se, nor is a general symptom of right hemisphere lesions, but rather is specific for stroke patients with spatial neglect. The evaluation of the patient's horizontal eye and head position thus could serve as a brief and easy way helping to diagnose spatial neglect, in addition to the traditional paper-and-pencil tests.