Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Supplied

Abu Dhabi: A new unit has opened at Abu Dhabi’s Sheikh Shakhbout Medical City (SSMC) for the diagnosis and treatment of ischemic strokes.

The biplane angio suite will provide an essential life-saving procedure to significantly reduce the long-term or permanent adverse effects of stroke. Interventional neuroradiologists at the unit will work closely with the hospital’s stroke unit to treat patients.

Every year, 8,000 to 10,000 patients suffer a stroke in the UAE, leaving many with a long-term disability. Ischemic stroke, which occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery leading to the brain, causes the blood to stop flowing to the brain. For every minute that the blood supply to the brain is stopped, 2 million brain cells die, resulting in potential brain damage. Access to stroke care as quickly as possible does not only mean getting the patient to the right hospital in time, but also reducing the time between diagnosis and treatment.

First line of treatment

A mechanical thrombectomy is a minimally invasive procedure, which has become a common first line of treatment for patients with ischemic strokes. During the procedure, the blood clot is removed under image guidance using a micro device inserted into the artery. Despite international guidelines having widened the time window for this procedure, allowing more patients to be eligible for mechanical thrombectomies, one-third of stroke patients still become ineligible due to lost time.

“Typically patients rushed to a stroke centre first receive a CT or MRI scan to get a definitive stroke diagnosis, afterwards, if the patient is a suitable candidate for mechanical thrombectomy, our interventional team will be on stand by for immediate intervention and the patient will be taken to the angio suite. Recent studies have clearly demonstrated that the faster the intervention the better the long-term outcome for the patients,” said Dr Aiman Quateen, chair of the division of interventional neuroradiology at SSMC.

SSMC’s new state-of-the-art integrated set-up allows interventional neuroradiologists like Dr Quateen to perform urgent angiograms (a type of x-ray) of the brain arteries to identify the blockage site, followed by the mechanical thrombectomy, to retrieve the blood clot obstructing the artery, and restore normal blood flow to the brain in a time-effective way.

‘Time is brain’

“We are extremely excited to have installed the new suite within, which will be hugely beneficial in providing faster quality stroke care, and therefore, significantly improving patient outcomes. ‘Time is brain’ is a term we often use to emphasise the importance of acting quickly when it comes to stroke care as every minute counts. Restoring blood flow to the brain vessels is crucial in ensuring that the effects of stroke are minimized, and that the patient regains normal function,” Dr Quateen said.

“At SSMC, we are committed to fostering innovation and bringing the latest technologies and treatments to enhance the quality of care that is being delivered to UAE patients. Our cutting-edge suite adds to the comprehensive multidisciplinary care we provide for a wide range of common and complex neurological conditions, enabling our experts to deliver better and faster results. Additionally, given the hospital’s strategic location we are able to reach a large amount of the capital’s population, which is important as we are one of the very few providers that offer this service,” said Dr Holland Ravelle, chair of the department of clinical imaging at SSMC.