SHARJAH // A specialised stroke centre for both residents and UAE nationals is due to open at Al Qassimi hospital next year.
At present, most stroke cases are admitted via the emergency department, but with time playing a vital role in treatment, the new centre could dramatically improve a patient's chances of making a full recovery.
"The government is now very concerned about helping stroke patients," said Dr Arif Al Noryani the CEO of Al Qassimi hospital. "This new centre at our hospital is one of the programmes for this.
"The centre will offer all stroke related rehabilitation and will have the latest equipment in this field."
The first four and a half hours after someone has had a stroke are crucial, said Dr Gunther Wihl, a consultant neurologist at The City Hospital in Dubai.
"Time is of the essence. If you have one centre that can be reached within minutes, this is desirable."
Al Qassimi hospital treats three to four stroke cases each week. Its new centre will open in the first quarter of 2013.
Dr Wihl and two other neurologists see between 20 and 25 stroke victims every month at The City Hospital, which does not have a dedicated treatment centre.
While this is "not a lot," said Dr Wihl, the majority of patients are young when compared to regions such as Europe.
"In Europe, the majority are probably aged between 60 and 75 whereas here, the majority are probably between 40 and 55."
The only other dedicated stroke treatment centre is at Dubai's Rashid Hospital, and the country needs more, said Dr Wihl.
"Definitely, each emirate needs at least one, probably two centres."
Having centres in multiple locations is a good idea, said Dr Ajith Kumar, the medical director of NMC Speciality Hospital in Dubai that sees between five and six stroke cases a month, the majority of whom are expatriates.
In a specialised centre, the quality of care overrides what is offered at a general hospital, he said.
"[It is like a] well-oiled machine. They have a protocol in place so when they get a stroke patient they know exactly what to do."
Dr Sathish Krishna, a neuro surgeon consultant at Al Qassimi hospital, says awareness is vital to reducing the number of people suffering strokes and helping victims recover quicker.
"Awareness among people to recognise stroke-related symptoms and report to the hospital at the shortest time possible is key to winning this battle," he said. "Stroke victims can die if not taken to hospital in time, while the survivors can often be left dependent on others for support in all aspects of life."