Medical experts gathered in Hanoi on Tuesday for a seminar that sought to share experience and discuss solutions to optimize protocols for treating acute brain stroke.
The seminar, organized by the representative office of Boehringer Ingelheim International GmbH in Ho Chi Minh City, also saw the launch of the Angels – Initiative program that sought to build a stroke network in Vietnam.
Leading cause of death
According to the European Stroke Organization, every 30 minutes a stroke patient dies or becomes permanently disabled while they could have been saved. The tragic outcome is the result of not only the stroke itself but also the fact that the patient has not received proper treatment from a specialized hospital.
According to Dr. Nguyen Huy Thang, president of Ho Chi Minh City Stroke Association and senior cerebrovascular physician at the city’s 115 People’s Hospital, stroke is the third leading cause of death worldwide and the number one cause of death in Vietnam. Every year, around 200,000 people suffers from a stroke across Vietnam, claiming even more lives than cancer, cardiovascular diseases and traffic accidents.
One of the reasons for its deadliness is the patient’s lack of knowledge about the symptoms of a stroke, or where to seek treatment in case of one. The shortage of specialized stroke units is also part of the problem, as there are less than 50 hospitals with a stroke unit nationwide.
According to estimations by Dr. Thang, less than one percent of all stroke patients in Vietnam had access to thrombolysis therapy – the standard treatment protocol for acute strokes. At 115 People’s Hospital, one of Vietnam’s leading medical institutions in stroke treatment, the number is only slightly higher, at three percent. Most patients are admitted to hospital long after the first ‘golden’ 4.5 hours since the onset of stroke symptoms, and therefore do not benefit much from thrombolysis therapy.
According to Assoc. Prof. Dr. Mai Duy Ton from the emergency department of Bach Mai Hospital in Hanoi, two million neurons die every two minutes after a stroke, with an addition four-percent risk of permanent disability every passing 15 minutes, making the treatment of stroke patients extremely urgent.
Having access to appropriate treatment within 90 minutes of a stroke greatly reduces the risks of disability for the patient, Dr. Ton said.
He added that one of the reasons for the slowness in response to a case of stroke is the inappropritate emergency protocol in Vietnam. The sorting of stroke patients at hospitals for priority has not been satisfactory, while there is also a lack of coordination among different departments within a hospital.
This raises the question of optimizing the emergency protocol in Vietnam in response to cases of stroke in order to shorten a patient’s waiting time before receiving treatment.
To tackle the problem in Vietnam, Dr. Ton suggested the dispersion of emergency stroke packs, setting up of common protocols, and maintenance of frequent communication between stroke physicians via social media.
Other doctors at the seminar also stressed the importance of building and developing stroke networks, outpatient emergency networks, as well as community programs to raise awareness of the condition.
An emergengy stroke kit
Developing stroke programs
A highlight of stroke treatment in Ho Chi Minh City is a network of 23 stroke response units scattered across the city’s 24 districts that have been able to shorten medics’ response time.
The second highlight is the red alert protocol within hospitals that has also contributed to the improvement of response time. Strokes patients will benefit from even faster response time if 115 units in all districts are equipped with a digital map of all emergency stroke units in the city.
Patients will have a greater chance of surviving a stroke if emergency stroke units adopt a similar protocol to the red alert protocol at hospital.
According to Stephen Joshep Walter, head of the representative office of Boehringer Ingelheim in Vietnam, the establishment of stroke units will bring down stroke-related deaths, disability, complications, length of hospital stay and medical costs while improving patients’ chances of returning to a normal life. As an experienced company in stroke prevention and treatment, Boehringer Ingelheim hopes to increase the number of patients with access to stroke units and optimize the quality of stroke treatment at current institutions through the Angels – Initiative program.
The Angels (AcuteNetworks strivinG for ExceLlence in Stroke) Initiative is a global program first enacted in Europe in 2015 and has been launched in Southeast Asian coutnries, including Vietnam, since 2017. The program is counselled by the European Stroke Organization and the World Stroke Organization.
The program’s vision is to increase the number of patients treated in stroke ready hospitals and to optimize the quality of treatment in all existing stroke centres.
The program currently offer training for stroke responders through the Angels Academny as well as provide hospitals with almost everything needed for treating acute stroke – packed inside an emergency kit. It also provides members of the stroke community with a platform for better support, ideas, sharing and achievement recognition through global awards.
In Vietnam, Angels aim to support the establishment of a professional community of 100 stroke centers nationwide by 2021.
For more information about the program, please visit https://angels-initiative.com/
Boehringer Ingelheim is one of the 20 leading pharmaceuticals in the world, headquartered in Ingelheim, Germany. Boehringer Ingelheim was founded in 1885 as a family-run company, operating globally with 145 branchs and 47,500 employees. The company focuses on research, development, production and marketting of new drugs with high therapeutic values on humans and animals.