Rapid treat­ment vi­tal for stroke victims

Stroke care con­tin­ues to make big ad­vances, with more pa­tients be­ing seen and treated than ever be­fore. In this special re­port, spoke with East Kent NHS clin­i­cal lead about the chal­lenges faced by pa­tients and med­i­cal staff

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Special Report -

Imag­ine los­ing the abil­ity to walk, talk and even re­mem­ber the most im­por­tant mo­ments in your life.

These are the chal­lenges that stroke victims face, as their brains lose 1.8 mil­lion cells ev­ery minute but get­ting seen quickly at a spe­cial­ist stroke unit, such as the Richard Stevens Unit at the Wil­liam Har­vey Hos­pi­tal in Ash­ford, could make the dif­fer­ence when it comes to pa­tients to make a full re­cov­ery.

Ro­ma­nian lorry driver Ro­man Sorin, 46, found him­self in the hos­pi­tal af­ter re­al­is­ing he was hav­ing trou­ble with his bal­ance last month.

Mr Sorin re­ported prob­lems af­ter hav­ing a stress­ful day on the roads and woke up with chest pains and breath­ing trou­ble. He has been driv­ing for 18 years and pre­vi­ously suf­fered a stroke four years ago.

For­tu­nately af­ter he was taken to hos­pi­tal, ex­perts were able to get him to the stroke unit for as­sess­ment, where he be­gan his re­cov­ery last month.

He said: “I had a stress­ful day, when get­ting out of bed I felt sick The key signs to look out for in stroke victims are the per­sons face, arms and speech.

If the per­son is not able to smile, or one side of their face droops, it could be a sign they have suf­fered a stroke. Sim­i­larly, one should check if a per­son is able to raise both arms and also check if a per­son’s speech is slurred and was vom­it­ing. Af­ter that I had chest pains and breath­ing ap­noea. I am scared be­cause I don’t want to have an­other fall but I am happy with the treat­ment I have had.” or mud­dled.

The Think FAST ad­vice says that if you spot these symp­toms, call 999. Other signs can in­clude paral­y­sis, sud­den loss or blur­ring of vi­sion, dizzi­ness, con­fu­sion, dif­fi­culty un­der­stand­ing what oth­ers are say­ing, prob­lems with bal­ance and co-or­di­na­tion and dif­fi­culty swal­low­ing.

Mr Sorin now faces a few months off work to re­cover and says he wants to ditch his smok­ing habit.

His case is typ­i­cal for the team at the Richard Stevens Unit.

Dr David Har­groves is the East Kent NHS Trust’s (EKHUFT) con­sul­tant physi­cian and clin­i­cal lead for stroke medicine, re­spon­si­ble for look­ing af­ter pa­tients across hos­pi­tals in the area.

He said care for pa­tients con­tin­ues to make huge strides for­ward, with the ad­vance of brain imag­ing tech­nol­ogy such as MRI scans, and drugs to clear blood clots which used to prove fa­tal.

Dr Har­groves said: “A pa­tient can lose nearly two mil­lion brain cells a minute, so the speed to get a pa­tient to a stroke care unit is re­ally im­por­tant.”

But di­ag­nos­ing the type of stroke some­one has had and the right treat­ment is also of huge im­por­tance. One type of treat­ment is a me­chan­i­cal thrombec­tomy, which is used to treat those with the most se­vere form of stroke and was ap­proved for use in east Kent in April this year. The rare pro­ce­dure uses a wire which is in­serted into the leg and ex­tends up to the brain to clear blocked blood ves­sels.

Other forms of throm­bol­y­sis are used to re­move blood clots, where pow­er­ful drugs can be used. About 20% of pa­tients can be treated us­ing the method but only around 7% need it.

Dr Har­groves said: “These are very po­tent drugs and very dan­ger­ous if given to the wrong pa­tient. They could bleed to death. So with ev­ery case you have to bal­ance the risk ver­sus the ben­e­fit to the pa­tient.

“Last year I treated a preg­nant woman and you have to think of the un­born baby.”

He added: “There are also other neu­ro­log­i­cal con­di­tions which to the pub­lic might look like a stroke. So mak­ing the cor­rect di­ag­no­sis can be one of the most chal­leng­ing things we do.”

Over­all, he said that di­ag­no­sis and treat­ment is im­prov­ing but the im­pact of un­healthy life­styles can still have an im­pact, with adults who smoke or are obese in their 20s or 30s be­ing at greater risk of suf­fer­ing a stroke in their 50s or 60s.

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