Atrial Fibrillation (AF) is the most serious and common cardiac arrhythmia in adults and one of the principal causes of strokes. As the world’s population is getting older, it is also becoming more frequent. Numerous studies show the close relationship between strokes and AF: people with it are between four and five times more likely to suffer a cerebral embolism (or embolic stroke). In Spain 11% of strokes are caused by AF.
Dr Mirko Alavena, a specialist in neuro-rehabilitation at the Quironsalud Hospital in Torrevieja, assured that “the risk of AF associated strokes increases notably with age, by up to 23.5% ad advanced ages of 80 to 89 years. Strokes due to AF also tend to be serious, increasing the chances of disability by 60%”.
AF is often asymptomatic and can only be detected with regular medical check ups. Risk factors that can cause it include high blood pressure, diabetes, ageing, cardiac insufficiency, an overactive thyroid gland or other hormonal problems, or consuming too much alcohol or coffee.
“Some of these cannot be changed, like ageing, but others like controlling blood pressure, diabetes, not smoking or avoiding too much alcohol can help to prevent AF and strokes”, highlighted the specialist.
Early and continuous treatment improves the side effects of brain damage after a stroke, infection or heart attack. A neurological injury as a result of one of these can cause difficulty moving, communicating and performing tasks as common as getting dressed, seriously disturbing family and social life.
Dr Alavena stressed that “rehabilitation has to be as early as possible, specialised and with an experienced and trained multi-disciplinary team that tries to recover functions through cerebral neuro-plasticity mechanisms”. This sort of immediate attention is fundamental for neuro-rehabilitation, including hospital treatment as an inpatient involving other specialities, including Intensive Care if necessary, or as an outpatient.
“Training as support for patients and their families, as well as virtual rehabilitation using Biotrak and touchscreens are key elements for the recovery of patients with neurological injuries” said the specialist.
The Torrevieja Quirónsalud Hospital neuro-rehabilitation unit applies multi-disciplinary treatments that improve patients’ clinical results. It has been pioneering in its use of virtual reality with applied technology like Biotrak, a rehabilitation system that helps to control every detail of the process and adapts to the dysfunctions of each patient and improves their motivation.
This unit’s team is made up of specialists in neurology and rehabilitation, and a therapeutic team with neuro-psychology, speech therapy, occupational therapy and physiotherapy.