Karachi: Prominent rehabilitation expert Dr Iqbal Jafri said here that although stroke is the leading cause of deaths and disabilities in the world, including Pakistan, reliable data of stroke-related disabilities and deaths was neither available with authorities nor with physicians in the country.
He was speaking at the concluding session of 2nd neuro-rehabilitation conference held here at Dow University of Health Sciences (DUHS) under the auspices of Pakistan Society of Neuro-rehabilitation.
Dr Jafri said that thousands of people who survive strokes but become permanently disabled remain dependent on their families and relatives for the rest of their life due to shortage of rehabilitation facilities and absence of trained and qualified rehabilitation experts in the country.
“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 opined, saying excessive smoking, obesity, lack of exercise, consumption of unbalanced diet, high intake of table salt were some of the risk factors leading to stroke.
“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,” he said, adding that 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.
Renowned neurologist Prof Dr Rashid Jooma threw light on the rehabilitation issues facing the patients with traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury, saying that though no data is available regarding disabilities caused due to TBI, it was expected that by 2020, there would be a 20 per cent increase in such disabilities.
He was of the view that most of the traumatic brain injuries, resulting in disabilities, occur in road accidents, industrial mishaps and in incidents of terrorism, while spinal cord injuries caused during accidents and trauma were some other contributing factors behind disabilities in Pakistan.
“Although no data is available, there was an increase in disabilities following 2005 earthquake, natural disasters and incidents of terror afterwards, no medicine is, so far, available for restoring lost neural function and yet the patients can be trained to live a better life with modern rehab facilities”, he added.
At the outset, speakers said that although stroke, traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord injuries due to accidents and trauma are some of the major causes of disabilities in Pakistan, hospitals even in major cities of the country did not have neuro-rehabilitation centres for treating and rehabilitating patients with disabilities.
They called for establishment a chain of fully-equipped rehabilitation centers in all the cities of the country, stressed the need for continued family support, counseling of patients and their relatives, besides provision of recreational facilities for persons with disabilities.