Experts highlight the need for comprehensive stroke care

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– Boehringer Ingelheim inaugurates its 4th Middle East, Turkey and Africa (META) stroke academy with leading cardiologists and neurologists highlighting the latest protocols in managing stroke incidences in the region from prevention to treatment

– The 2018 META stroke academy has been officially endorsed by the European Stroke Organization

– Every 30 minutes, a stroke patients dies or is disabled not because of stroke, but because they were not receiving the standard of treatment a specialized stroke unit provides

Boehringer Ingelheim, one of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies recently inaugurated its 4th META Stroke Academy in the United Arab Emirates.


The two-day event included over 150 leading neurologists and cardiologists from across the region who shed light on the importance of implementing immediate stroke prevention and treatment processes so that lives of stroke patients can be saved and permanent disabilities reduced.

The META Stroke Academy is accredited by three reputable bodies including the Dubai Health Authority (DHA), European Board for Accreditation in Cardiology (EBAC) as well as the European Stroke Organization (ESO) to drive the program’s overall scientific value.

During the working sessions as part of the event, medical experts highlighted the epidemiological change of stroke and the disease’s continued increase worldwide and in the region. They said that there is an urgent need to develop more efficient and accurate methods to measure stroke. There is also a significant call to increase public awareness and implement interventions on stroke, its risk factors and symptoms to help people understand the negative impact on the quality of life.

The META Stroke Academy focuses on prevention of stroke and immediate treatment on occurrence to save lives. Prevention of stroke measures involves identification of risk factors, which may include the increased prevalence of hypertension, diabetes and a high BMI. The increased incidences of these diseases lead to a number of complications that include atrial fibrillation, irregular blood circulation, and tendency for blood clotting, which requires effective available treatment to minimize the chances of stroke occurrence.

Over the past four years, collaborative efforts between hospitals, regulators and Boehringer Ingelheim have resulted in the development of a comprehensive stroke centers across the META region. In 2015, in both the UAE and Saudi Arabia, there were three certified centres. Six centers are expected to be in place by the end of this year and 10 by 2019.

A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of your brain is interrupted or reduced, depriving brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients. Within minutes, brain cells begin to die. Atrial fibrillation (AF) is the commonest persistent cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) and is an important cause of stroke.
In atrial fibrillation, blood can pool in the heart’s upper chambers (atria) and form blood clots. If a blood clot forms, it can travel from the heart to the brain, obstructing the flow of blood to the brain and causing a stroke.

To address this, experts also discussed the importance of doctors making the right choice for their patients when it comes to stroke prevention through the use of oral anti-coagulants which are used to treat atrial fibrillation. Studies have shown that anticoagulation can result in a 64% reduction in strokes.

Dr. Nooshin Bazaragani, Board Member, World Heart Federation, and Chair – Prevention Working Group of Emirates Cardiac Society said, “Stroke and cardiovascular diseases (CVDs) are the most common causes of death worldwide . ’Stroke is a feared and common complication of atrial fibrillation and is associated with significant mortality and morbidity. Patients with atrial fibrillation are five times more likely to have a stroke, which has become a major issue for the UAE’s healthcare systems.”

“According to studies, heart diseases have increased mortality rates in the UAE, and is the number one killer in the country. The prevalence of Atrial Fibrillation in the Middle East stands at 15%. However, Africa is lower than other regions in the developing world with only 1.6% to 6.9% in stroke patients, 4.6% to 5.5% in cardiology patients. In addition, Ischaemic strokes are the most common type of atrial fibrillation related stroke and can cause considerable disability and possibly death. This is a strong indication of the need for community members to recognise heart disease symptoms and know the optimal action to take in response to heart disease,” added Dr. Bazaragani.

Dr. Suhail Abdulla Al-Rukn, Neurology Consultant and Stroke Specialist, Neurology Department at Rashid Hospital also noted, “The impact of suffering stroke incidences leave a devastating mark on patients and their families. We need to continue to intensify our efforts to developing dedicated stroke care centers, which will directly lead to faster and better patient outcomes and aims to provide superior technology with multidisciplinary teams that exclusively manage stroke patients in a ward. Having such centers will decrease the mortality rates, the complications and outcomes of stroke. This because patients loose about 120 million brain cells within 1 hour of suffering from a stroke incident. The underlying aim here is to deliver the right patient to the right medical facility in the right time frame. In the UAE, there are more than 10,000 stroke cases per year. We believe that over 80% of all stokes are preventable by lifestyle adjustments .”

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“Rapid diagnosis in a dedicated stroke centre can quickly determine the stroke and immediate medical treatment, in less than 60 minutes, known as the Golden Hour reduces the chances of further complications. Our aim is to improve thrombolysis rates to reach an average of 18-20% (a worldwide best practice), establish tele stroke units in urban areas, as well as increase patient awareness to recognize symptoms leading to stroke. It is worth mentioning that within two years, Rashid Hospital has succeeded to reduce the door-to-needle time frame from 95 minutes to 45 minutes,” added Dr. Al Rukn.

The META Stroke Academy has emphasized on accelerating the decreasing door to needle times- which is the interval between patient’s arrival to the hospital and starting the treatment; support in establishing a dedicated stroke unit in hospitals which will directly lead to faster and better patient outcomes and; The most important objective is of raising and increasing the awareness of a robust stroke management among community and healthcare professionals.

Experts have also underscored the important use of ground-breaking technology to managing stroke. A live digital simulation took place during the event, where a room was fully equipped with smart screens that showcased different stroke cases. Doctors present at the event examined each case with an accurate diagnosis leading to the decision to administer the right medication within the one hour time frame. The activity provided an opportunity for patients to respond and engage with medical experts, who examined patients’ body parts, while also performing a CT scan.

Enrique Manzoni, Country Managing Director for Middle East, Turkey and Africa Region (META) added “We are proud to host the 4th META Stroke Academy in the United Arab Emirates, which continues to provide a platform for leading neurologists and cardiologists to come together under one umbrella and put a holistic approach from effective prevention to the treatment of stroke. As a company, we remain committed to our patients in the region and support healthcare professionals by driving the implementation of dedicated stroke care centers across the region.’’

Symptoms of stroke can include sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arms or legs on one side of the body, as well as speech impairment, trouble with eye sight, loss of balance as well as severe headache. Experts stressed that F.A.S.T is an easy way to remember the sudden signs of stroke, which reflects Face Dropping, Arm Weakness, Speech Difficulty and Time to call for support.

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