The symptom of tongue deviation is observed in a stroke or transient ischemic attack. Nevertheless, there is much room for the interpretation of the tongue deviation test. The crucial factor is the lack of an effective quantification method of tongue deviation. If we can quantify the features of the tongue deviation and scientifically verify the relationship between the deviation angle and a stroke, the information provided by the tongue will be helpful in recognizing a warning of a stroke.
In this study, a quantification method of the tongue deviation angle was proposed for the first time to characterize stroke patients. We captured the tongue images of stroke patients (15 males and 10 females, ranging between 55 and 82 years of age); transient ischemic attack (TIA) patients (16 males and 9 females, ranging between 53 and 79 years of age); and normal subjects (14 males and 11 females, ranging between 52 and 80 years of age) to analyze whether the method is effective. In addition, we used the receiver operating characteristic curve (ROC) for the sensitivity analysis, and determined the threshold value of the tongue deviation angle for the warning sign of a stroke.
The means and standard deviations of the tongue deviation angles of the stroke, TIA, and normal groups were: 6.9 ± 3.1, 4.9 ± 2.1 and 1.4 ± 0.8 degrees, respectively. Analyzed by the unpaired Student’s t-test, the p- value between the stroke group and the TIA group was 0.015 (>0.01), indicating no significant difference in the tongue deviation angle. The p- values between the stroke group and the normal group, as well as between the TIA group and the normal group were both less than 0.01. These results show the significant differences in the tongue deviation angle between the patient groups (stroke and TIA patients) and the normal group. These results also imply that the tongue deviation angle can effectively identify the patient group (stroke and TIA patients) and the normal group. With respect to the visual examination, 40% and 32% of stroke patients, 24% and 16% of TIA patients, and 4% and 0% of normal subjects were found to have tongue deviations when physicians “A” and “B” examined them. The variation showed the essentiality of the quantification method in a clinical setting. In the receiver operating characteristic curve (ROC), the Area Under Curve (AUC, = 0.96) indicates good discrimination. The tongue deviation angle more than the optimum threshold value (= 3.2°) predicts a risk of stroke.
In summary, we developed an effective quantification method to characterize the tongue deviation angle, and we confirmed the feasibility of recognizing the tongue deviation angle as an early warning sign of an impending stroke.