Stroke
Beginning treatment within the first hour of a stroke dramatically improves chances of a recovery and treatment must be started at least within three hours of a stroke. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: It appeared as a mini stroke, but her timely admission at a designated stroke centre prevented Hasina B from developing any major complications, and possibly saved her life.

It is therefore essential to quickly detect and act upon the signs of a stroke and take the patient to a stroke centre, advised Dr Mohammad Baguneid, adjunct professor at UAE University and chair of surgery at Al Ain Hospital.

“A stroke, even the kind of mini-stroke that Hasina experienced, often points to a more serious and potentially fatal underlying condition. Designated stroke centres have the required know-how and equipment to diagnose and treat these conditions on time, which is why it is so important to approach them in the event of a stroke,” Dr Baguneid added.

10%

(only) of stroke victims reach a hospital on time to make a full recovery.

The 53-year-old Emirati was rushed to Al Ain Hospital, one of Abu Dhabi’s two designated stroke centres, within minutes of her stroke. Although she presented with only a mild, temporary weakness in her face and slurred speech, medics discovered an extremely rare aneurysm.

“Hasina had an aneurysm at the base of her skull, a site through which all the nerves connected to the brain pass. Less than one per cent of all people have an aneurysm in this location. The aneurysm was sending blood clots to her brain that could have eventually caused a major stroke, or the aneurysm itself would have burst and led to major haemorrhaging,” the doctor explained.

As it happened, Hasina was immediately admitted, and after her condition stabilised, she underwent surgery to separate the aneurysm from important nerves that control speech and swallowing.

A stroke occurs when blood flow to an area of brain is cut off or reduced, thus depriving brain cells of the oxygen needed for survival. On an average, strokes are known to occur in the UAE earlier than in the rest of the world — typically 45 years — and constitute the major cause of disability in the country. They are also the third leading cause of death after traffic accidents and cardiovascular diseases.

This is why all residents should be aware of the symptoms of stroke, Dr Baguneid said. These include face drooping, arm weakness and slurred speech.

The doctor stressed that time is of the essence in the event of a stroke, especially as timely intervention at a stroke centre can prevent permanent damage from a stroke, including muscle wasting.

In Abu Dhabi, Cleveland Clinic Abu Dhabi is another hospital recognised as a stroke centre by the Abu Dhabi Department of Health, while in Dubai, Rashid Hospital and the Mediclinic City Hospital handle the majority of strokes in Dubai.

UAE stroke facts:

■ A stroke occurs every hour in the UAE.

■ 10,000 people suffer from strokes in the country every year.

■ It is the No 1 cause of disability and third leading cause of death.

■ Only 10 per cent of stroke victims reach a hospital on time to make a full recovery.

■ Two million brain cells or neurons are lost every minute after a stroke.

■ Beginning treatment within the first hour of a stroke dramatically improves chances of a recovery and treatment must be started at least within three hours of a stroke.

How to prevent a stroke:

■ Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.

■ Have a healthy diet.

■ Lower your blood pressure.

■ Lose weight.

■ Exercise more.

■ Quit smoking, alcohol.

■ Treat underlying conditions like atrial fibrillation and diabetes.

How to identify a stroke:

■ Weakness on one side of the body — when you lift both arms one may drift back down.

■ Numbness of the face — smile may droop to one side, speech may be slurred.

■ Unusual and severe headache.

■ Vision loss.

■ Numbness and tingling.

■ Unsteady walk.