Aneurysm: Simple thumb test can detect risk

Updated: 04.07.2022 – 15:46

It should become standard
The simple thumb test can detect the risk of an aneurysm

With a simple thumb test, you can identify the risk of a possible aneurysm.

Photo: Getty Images / sakchai vongsasiripat

With a simple thumb test, you can identify the risk of a possible aneurysm.

A simple thumb test can indicate an aortic aneurysm. Scientists hope the test will become a standard exam.

A simple test that measures thumb flexibility can help alert people to a possible risk of an aortic aneurysm, a study from Yale University shows.

Identify the risk of an aneurysm with the thumb test

A simple thumb test could alert people to the risk of a hidden aortic aneurysm. An aneurysm is a balloon-like swelling of the walls of blood vessels that can occur anywhere in the body. However, the aorta, main artery, and brain are usually affected. According to estimates, more than two million Germans have an aneurysm in the brain, 250,000 an aortic aneurysm in the abdomen, from which about 2,000 people die each year. An abdominal aortic screening is already covered by health insurance for men, as they are more frequently affected.

If an aneurysm is detected at an early stage, careful monitoring and reduction of any existing hypertension, depending on the size, is often sufficient. Additionally, the vessel can be surgically stabilized with a vascular stent or prosthesis.

However, early diagnosis is often problematic, as aneurysms usually cause no symptoms. A simple test described in a Yale University study could help with early diagnosis. For at least two decades, lead author John A Elefteriades and his colleagues have introduced the thumb test to medical students in their lectures and have used it in patients who may be at increased risk for aneurysms. But despite this widespread use, the accuracy of the test was never evaluated in a clinical setting prior to the study, the researcher said.

Thumb test procedure

The test is very simple: the patient raises a hand, palm flat, and folds the thumb over the palm as much as possible. If the thumb extends beyond the edge of the palm, there may be a hidden aneurysm. Important: do not bend or twist your hand. This photo shows how it could be.

The flexibility of the thumb indicates that the long bones are under excessive stress and the joints are relaxed. This indicates a possible connective tissue disease throughout the body, including the aorta. But not everyone who can move their thumb in this way has an aneurysm, the scientists point out. They also pointed out that it often takes decades for an aneurysm to rupture and that a positive test is no cause for panic.

The test should become the standard exam

The test was performed on 305 patients undergoing cardiac surgery for various conditions, including aortic aneurysms. The study showed that patients with a positive test have a high chance of having an aneurysm.

Based on their findings, the researchers recommend including the thumb test in the standard patient exam. This could be particularly useful for patients with a family history. “The spread of this test could identify silent aneurysm carriers and save lives,” says Eleftheriades.



Even in the case of a stroke, it is necessary to act quickly if there are dangerous circulatory disorders in the brain. Further information can be found here:



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