Her Excellency Dr. Hanan Mohamed Al Kuwari, Minister of Public Health, today officially opened Hamad Medical Corporation’s (HMC) Stroke Service Unit, which is part of the new Neuroscience Institute at Hamad General Hospital.
The new facility features a Rapid Access Stroke Unit (RASU) and a Secondary Stroke Prevention Clinic (SSPC) which combined provide an innovative and comprehensive approach to stroke care through early diagnosis and faster assessment and treatment.
“The opening of these new services is another step forward in the provision of stroke care. We have made enormous progress in recent years to improve the range of services we provide to stroke patients. We now see patients more quickly, they are treated by specially trained stroke teams, and ultimately we are able to help them recover faster. The Rapid Access Stroke Unit and Secondary Stroke Prevention Clinic build on these improvements by enabling us to quickly and effectively diagnose patients with suspected stroke and also to prevent strokes from happening in the first place,” explained Her Excellency Dr. Al Kuwari.
HMC receives around 1,600 stroke patients annually. Due to the high prevalence in Qatar’s population of many risk factors for stroke – including diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, hypertension, and inactivity – the incidence of stroke is high, underscoring the importance of the new services.
“The opening of the RASU means that thanks to a collaboration between neuroradiology, medicine, and emergency department teams, patients with a minor stroke or suspected transient ischemic attack (TIA) can be quickly transferred from Hamad General Hospital’s Emergency Department to this unit. Here, a team of stroke consultants and clinical nurse specialists will carry out a range of investigations to confirm if the patient has had a mini-stroke,” said Dr. Dirk Deleu, Head of HMC’s Neurology Department.
Time is very important when treating strokes. A victim who is treated within a few hours of a stroke has a significantly lower risk of permanent brain damage or death than one in which the treatment is delayed.
“In addition to the RASU providing high-quality rapid assessments of suspected stroke cases, the new unit will help reduce the number of admissions to Hamad General Hospital, ease pressure on the Emergency Department and Acute Medical Care Unit, and enable other patients in need of urgent care to be seen more quickly by emergency care teams,” said Dr. Naveed Akhtar, Assistant Director of the Stroke Service.
Since opening in April 2018, the SSPC has delivered education, monitoring, and prevention services to more than 1,100 patients. “The aim of the new clinic is to reduce the risk of another stroke for patients who have recently had a stroke or transient ischemic attack, as well as those at high risk of having either form of stroke for the first time,” stated Professor Ashfaq Shuaib, Director of HMC’s Neurosciences Institute.
“Studies show that the risk of recurrent stroke is between five to ten percent within the first 30 days and rises up to 40 percent within five years of the initial stroke. For this reason, it is essential that we provide suitable education and support for stroke patients to try to prevent any further incidents,” added Professor Shuaib.
All stroke patients are given an appointment date at the SSPC within six weeks of discharge from a HMC hospital. The SSPC runs eight clinics a week with services delivered by specially trained stroke consultants, clinical nurse specialists, educators, and pharmacists.
“During consultations, our teams discuss a wide range of preventative strategies with patients, including diagnostic results, healthy lifestyle habits, and the main risk factors for stroke,’’ said Dr. Akhtar.
Speaking about HMC’s state-of-the-art Neuroangiography Suite at Hamad General Hospital, Dr. Ahmed Own, Chairman of Neuroradiology, said: “The Neuroangiography Suite’s diagnostic and intervention tools, which include MRI, CT scan, and cerebral angiography, are essential in the diagnosis and management of stroke and have enabled us to develop a more accurate and advanced treatment technique for patients with the most acute strokes. One of the key strengths of the cerebral angiography is that we are able to view the inside of blood vessels and organs of the body, especially the arteries and veins. These views are captured simultaneously, resulting in highly detailed three-dimensional views of blood vessels leading to the brain and deep within the brain.”
The new clinic highlights HMC’s focus on health promotion and education. With the opening of this service, in addition to the Tobacco Control Center and National Obesity Center which have both opened in the past year, HMC is expanding its range of preventative services aimed at keeping Qatar’s population as healthy as possible.