No proper data of stroke-related deaths, disabilities in Pakistan

KARACHI: Renowned rehabilitation expert Dr Iqbal Jafri has said that stroke was the leading cause of death and disabilities in the world including Pakistan but unfortunately, no concrete data of stroke-related disabilities and deaths was available with the government authorities and physicians in Pakistan.

This he said while addressing the concluding session of 2nd neuro-rehabilitation conference, organized by Pakistan Society of Neuro-rehabilitation at Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS).

Dr Jafri said there are thousands of people who survive strokes but become permanently disabled and become dependent on their families and relatives for their remaining period of their life due to lack of rehabilitation facilities and absence of trained and qualified rehab experts.

“In this scenario, prevention is the only option left for most of the Pakistani population to avoid death and most importantly, permanent and painful disability due to stroke”, Dr Jaffri informed.

He said excessive smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, consumption of unbalanced diet, high intake of table salt were some of the risk factors leading to stroke and added that by avoiding these risk factors, death and disability from stroke could be avoided.

According to him, rehabilitation is a long-term (often life-long) process, which needs maximizing residual abilities of patients to achieve maximum possible functional independence and family and social support

“Immediate rehabilitation measures for the patients with brain injuries start at the onset of disability and include proper positioning for the prevention of bed sores and contractures, placement of a footboard for the prevention of foot-joint deformity, passive movement of all joints on positioning for the prevention of contractures and DVT and elevation of paralyzed limb to prevent swelling”, he informed.

Another prominent neurologist, Prof Dr Rashid Jooma spoke on the rehabilitation issues facing the patients with traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury. He said although no data is available regarding disabilities caused due to TBI, it was expected that by 2020, there would be a 20 percent increase in such disabilities including Pakistan.

He claimed that most of the traumatic brain injuries resulting in disabilities occur due to accidents on roads in addition to industrial accidents and incidents of terrorism while spinal cord injuries are caused during accidents and trauma.

“Although no data is available, an increase in disabilities was seen following 2005 earthquake, following natural disasters and incidents of terror. Unfortunately, there is no medicine available so far to restore lost neural function but patients can be trained to live a better life with modern rehab facilities”, he concluded.

The speakers said stroke, traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries due to accidents and trauma are some of the major causes of disabilities in Pakistan but unfortunately, unlike other countries of the world, Pakistani hospitals don’t have neuro-rehabilitation centres, even in the major cities, to treat and rehabilitate patients with disabilities.

The rehabilitation experts not only called for establishment of a chain of fully-equipped rehabilitation centres in each and every city of the country but also stressed continued family support, counselling of patients and their relatives as well as provision of recreational facilities to persons with disabilities to lead normal lives.