The ‘new normal’ of stroke awareness and why we must act FAST
By Nurgul Vatansever, Vice President at Medtronic CEMA
Although World Stroke Day, which happens every year on the 29th October, has been and gone, the fight to raise awareness and increase prevention of stroke must continue all year round. This year alone, 14.5 million people worldwide will have a stroke, with 5.5 million people expected to die as a result. This needs to change.
This serious issue has been compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic with many patients worldwide reporting their symptoms, on average, a few days after the onset. This will not only have a significant effect on their chances of recovery, but it also affects those around them, the need for intensive care, and the overall healthcare system. More than ever, we all must be stroke aware.
As the second leading cause of death and third leading cause of disability worldwide1, stroke is having a devastating effect closer to home and greatly affecting people across the Middle East. In the UAE, approximately 10,000 to 12,000 cases are being recorded each year2, while in Egypt the annual amount of cases is around 150,000 to 210,0003.
Despite these alarming numbers, the most severe effects of stroke are preventable and treatable, with 80 million people having survived a stroke4. Identifying the signs of stroke are vitally important and could save thousands of lives every day and prevent permanent disability. Recognizing these signs and acting fast can save up to two million neurons per minute and help give patients the best possible chance of recovery. To help aid stroke patients’ in their race against time, the use of “F.A.S.T.” can help spot the signs of a stroke and seek help quickly. By recognizing any Face drooping, Arm weakness, Speech slurring, and then acting in Time to call emergency services, people can save countless lives. It is understood that 1 in 4 people will rely on those closest to them to tell they are having a stroke and call emergency services.
Supporting the region
At Medtronic, our main focus is to increase access to stroke care and effective stroke treatment by providing innovative medical technology to local governments and their specialized stroke centers. As a trusted partner, we are also working intently with key stakeholders to optimize the processes and resources across the four different stages of the patient pathway, and through our efforts across infrastructure development, therapy awareness, and training, we aim to ensure more patients are getting the best care possible, as quickly as possible.
One way that we are doing this is by providing highly trained consultants to support hospitals and governments to create Centers of Excellence, a structured onsite networking opportunity that connects patients with an experienced stroke center that provides for discussion, benchmarking, and best practice sharing.
Technology and education
Time is the difference between a good or bad medical outcome for a stroke patient. As a result, Medtronic is utilizing Artificial Intelligence to help decrease the diagnosis time and increase patient outcomes. The launch of our RAPID software, which is an artificial intelligence-powered imaging software, allows doctors and first responders to quickly identify brain events, and most importantly, speed up the treatment of patients suspected of having ischemic strokes.
In Saudi Arabia, where studies show an incidence rate of first-time stroke of 57.64 per 100,000 people5, Medtronic is optimizing the stroke pathways at Sulaiman Al-Habib Hospitals’ Network by providing them with innovative technology, like RAPID, and leveraging Medtronic’s expertise to support stroke teams in establishing a strong referral network.
Sulaiman Al-Habib Hospitals’ Network has also opened six hospitals in three different regions of the Kingdom with immediate evaluation for every stroke code. In addition to the standard of care for acute stroke, IV alteplase, an injection used to treat blood clots in the lungs, and mechanical thrombectomy, a minimally invasive procedure, are also offered to all eligible patients. As technology and techniques evolve, it is essential that health staff also have access to quality education and training. To continue improving and extending the lives of stroke patients, Medtronic provides learning resources and healthcare professional training programs for local stroke teams in the region.
In the UAE, for example, Medtronic is partnering with the stroke team at Rashid Hospital to help transform their center into a training hub for the whole region to train interventional neuro-radiologists, neurologists, nurses and ER doctors on how to optimize stroke management in their hospital and therefore helping to elevate stroke pathways.
Providing holistic care
We are also focused on helping to provide a holistic experience and ongoing support for our patients by increasing awareness and improving their entire treatment process through our innovative therapies to help improve their quality of life. Through the use of quality surgical tools, in Egypt we have been able to enhance stroke care pathways and significantly improve the impact on patient outcomes. Solitaire™ X is a new generation revascularization device for Acute Ischemic Stroke with a unique technology that allows physicians to draw clots out of the patient, and therefore alleviates pain and improves their lives.
Post-treatment care is also a priority, which is why Medtronic also sponsors clinical registries to improve post-stroke treatment, and as a result we have been able to make a measurable impact by reducing recurrence rates and lasting health problems for local patients. In addition, we are also looking to improve the outcomes and lives of as many patients as we can by providing consultancy services to enhance the patient experience across pre, inter, and in hospital phases.
As a leading healthcare and medical technology company, we recognize the incredibly important role we play in improving stroke care efficiency throughout the Middle East, and we remain strongly committed to alleviating pain, restoring health and extending the life of our patients by harnessing the power of technologies and people.
It is imperative that we continue working as a trusted partner alongside local governments, organizations, and patient societies to not only offer stroke patients the quality of care that they deserve, but also to raise much needed awareness around the impact of stroke on our region and ways that we can help to prevent serious outcomes and save lives. In the era of COVID-19, this has never been more important; we need to keep this conversation going.
1. Johnson, W., Onuma, O., Owolabi, M., & Sachdev, S. (2016). Stroke: a global response is needed. Bulletin of the World Health Organization, 94(9), 634-634A. https://doi.org/10.2471/blt.16.181636
4. Why stroke matters. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.world-stroke.org/world-stroke-day-campaign/why-stroke-matters