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One Test, Many Uses

The test is now used by SGH speech therapists to assess patients for moderate to severe aphasia, but a research study, funded by the Ministry of Health, is necessary to validate the usefulness of the test. The data from the study will also help the team look for patterns, such as the range of scores to indicate the condition’s stages of severity.

Four other health care institutions are involved in the study: National University Hospital, Khoo Teck Puat Hospital, St Andrew’s Community Hospital and Changi General Hospital (CGH). Some 30 aphasia patients, mostly from SGH, have taken the test. The team hopes to test at least 120 more patients.

The test could also be useful for speech therapists in Malaysia, because of the cultural and other similarities between the country and Singapore. As it is a test for language and comprehension, it could be used to spot other conditions that affect language ability, such as dementia.

A significant number of stroke patients suffer from aphasia

"Language difficulties may occur if a stroke damages the brain’s left hemisphere, the part where most people’s language centre resides," says Dr Valerie Lim, Senior Principal Speech Therapist, Speech Therapy Department, Singapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth group.

Depending on the severity of the condition, known as aphasia, the patient may have problems understanding language, talking or expressing themselves in words, reading or writing. He may suffer from one, a combination or all of the functions.

To determine the type and severity of their condition, patients’ speech, voice and comprehension, as well as their ability to read and write, are evaluated.

Treatment will then depend on their needs and goals, and the severity of their condition. Some may suffer from mild symptoms, such as taking a long time to find the right words to express themselves, while others may experience more severe symptoms, such as not being able to vocalise their thoughts or being able to respond only by nodding.

Recovery depends on many factors, such as the severity of the stroke and the patient’s age. It is generally more difficult for older patients to make a full recovery.

About 30 to 40 per cent of stroke patients suffer from aphasia.

See previous page to learn about the localised test for stroke patients with aphasia​.

Ref: Q15