PATIENTS with stroke symptoms will have a near double mortality rate if they do not seek immediate treatment at a specialist stroke unit, a Consultant Neurologist to Jerudong Park Medical Centre's JPMC) Neuroscience, Stroke and Rehabilitation Centre (NSRC) said.
Such symptoms are acute weaknesses, a change in facial asymmetry and speech arrests, among others.
Professor Datin Seri Laila Jasa Dr Uta Meyding-Lamadé, who is also head of the Neurology Department at Germany's Krankenhaus Nordwest (KHNW) Hospital said although they have treated 1,000 in-and-out stroke patients since NSRC was launched in mid 2010, a recent re-evaluation study here indicated that many were not aware of a "time-window" for stroke treatment.
She noted that although stroke awareness has increased where people are more informed about stroke symptoms, the time-window in which means "every minute counts" in receiving immediate treatment is still not widely known.
"This was obvious in our re-evaluation study, that after over a year, that the time-window is not yet in every one's mind. This is a critical time-window where within the first 4.5 hours, we can do thrombolysis (a drug given to break down blood clots) as a proven treatment," she said.
Professor Datin Dr Meyding-Lamadé urged patients with stroke symptoms not to lose any time by immediately checking themselves into NSRC, instead of calling their General Practitioner (GP).
"The mortality of a stroke is between 20 to 30 per cent within a year. Patients will have a near double mortality if they do not come to a specialist stroke unit, and they will miss the time where they can get a reverse colossal stroke," she said.
"If you have a clot in the brain, we can dissolve it with a thrombolytic agent within 4.5 hours, but if you come later, we cannot do it anymore," she said, stressing that thrombolysis can only be performed within 4.5 hours of a patient coming into NSRC with stroke symptoms.
She pointed out that even young people in Brunei are among stroke patients, with the youngest patient at NSRC being 13-years old.
The consultant neurologist said this is striking, compared to Germany and Europe.
"You can (suffer) strokes even at a young age, and this has to be remembered. This is often not known and they often come later than the older people because you do not think of a stroke happening to young people," she said.
Meanwhile, another Consultant neurologist Dk Hjh Noraziedah Pg Hj Mohd Yasin said there is a culture here in Brunei where patients with stroke symptoms will seek traditional healers first before contemplating checking themselves into a stroke unit.
"Also for older people, they would wait for their children to come home and take them to the hospital. But a big part of why they come late is because they seek out the traditional healers first," she said.
At NSRC, Dk Hjh Noraziedah said they are open with patients bringing in their traditional healers.
"The only thing we discourage is for them to take traditional herbs, because we worry it might interfere with our medication and treatment," she said.
However, Dk Hjh Noraziedah urged patients to first come to NSRC for treatment, and later bring in their traditional healers if they wish.