Stroke treatment in Vietnam was difficult due to hospitals' limited infrastructure and residents' lack of knowledge, said experts at a World Stroke Day conference held on October 29 in the capital.

About 200,000 people in the country have strokes each year, and half of them die, a decrease of about 20 per cent compared with 10 years ago, according to the Vietnam Stroke Association.

Professor Le Van Thinh, head of Bach Mai Hospital's Mental Diseases Ward, said that while the number of patients who died decreased, that of people experiencing after-effects was on the rise.

About 90 percent of patients have after-effects, he said, the severity of which depends on when the patients were hospitalised and how they were treated.

Most of the patients missed the "golden hour" to go to the hospital, which is about three hours after experiencing stroke symptoms such as numbness in face, arms and legs, speaking difficulties and vertigo.

Moreover, Professor Thinh said, hospitals still lack modern equipment for diagnosis and treatment. The medical schools and universities lack a stroke faculty so most doctors gather their professional knowledge from their working experience.

At commune medical stations, where there are no doctors, giving emergency aid and treatment to stroke patients is also difficult. The country does not have official statistics on treatment expenses for stroke patients.

"It's obvious that stroke patients are a burden to the society. Proper prevention and treatment is very important to reduce the consequences," said Thinh.

Professor Nguyen Van Thong, former director of Military Hospital 108's Stroke Centre, said that the urgent work now was to improve residents' awareness about the disease and improve professional skills for medical workers in the field.

In 2008, the Ministry of Health conducted a training programme on treating stroke patients in 58 cities and provinces across the country with the participation of more than 8,500 doctors.-VNA