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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 15 November 2018

UAE medics call for more stroke care centres 

Strokes are the main cause of disability in the UAE and the third greatest cause of death

A Neurosurgeon looks at the MRI results of stem cell treatments for a stroke patient in Dubai. Amy Leang / The National
A Neurosurgeon looks at the MRI results of stem cell treatments for a stroke patient in Dubai. Amy Leang / The National

Every hour, at least one person in the country suffers a stroke – and only 10 per cent of them reach a hospital in time to make a full recovery, according to several studies published in the UAE.

Those who are not so lucky risk severe brain damage, disability or even death.

Strokes are the main cause of disability in the UAE and the third greatest cause of death, behind car accidents and cardiovascular disease.

On World Stroke Day, UAE doctors stressed the need for more stroke centres, saying the five existing ones – three in Abu Dhabi and two in Dubai – are insufficient for the scale of the issue.

“This is a very small number. We need health awareness, but we need state-of-the-art stroke facilities,” said Dr Isam Salih, stroke consultant at Sheikh Khalifa Medical City.

“Access to stroke facilities needs to cover the entire country, but the remote areas of the emirate do not have access. If a patent has a stroke in a remote area, then it will be very difficult to get them to a stroke centre in time.”

Strokes occur when the blood supply to the brain becomes blocked and part of the brain is starved of oxygen. With every minute that passes, two million brain cells die, increasing the risk of brain damage, so every moment saved is vital for patients.

“Given the population and size of the emirate, we need more stroke centres and, more importantly, there needs to be co-ordination between primary, secondary and stroke-ready centres and the patient’s journey,” Dr ­Salih said.

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Without proper care, mortality rates can rise by 50 per cent, Dr Salih said.

He said that delays were also a result of people failing to identify the symptoms.

Up to 10,000 people suffer from strokes every year in the UAE. Only 10 per cent of patients who visit hospitals fully recover. In European countries, such as Germany, the recovery percentage rises to 30.

According to research from Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi, beginning treatment within the first hour of suffering a stroke dramatically improves recovery chances.

The study showed that 52 per cent of serious stroke patients who underwent treatment within the first 60 minutes had positive outcomes, as opposed to 27 per cent who received treatment after the one-hour window.

Dr Derk Krieger, chief of neurology at Mediclinic City Hospital in Dubai, said they see five stroke patients a day.

“We should be seeing 50. The other 45 never show up at the hospital because of insurance or end up at a hospital that is not equipped to deal with stroke patients,” he said.

Stroke symptoms include a sudden loss of balance, drooping of one side of the face when trying to smile, weakness down one side of the body, slurred or garbled speech, and loss of vision in one or both eyes.