The National Neuroscience Institute (NNI) has signed a memorandum of understanding with Siriraj Hospital, Thailand, to enhance the standard of neurointervention care in both countries. The MOU formalises long-standing ties between the two institutions and focuses on deepening collaborations on education, research and the sharing of best practices in the field of neurointervention.

Neurointervention uses minimally invasive techniques with imaging to treat stroke, aneurysms and other conditions caused by damaged and malformed blood vessels in the brain and spine. A fine catheter (tube) is inserted into an artery in the groin and passed through the blood vessels to the affected site in the brain or spine, allowing specialists to repair the damage from within the blood vessel.

Speaking at the MOU signing ceremony on 1 August 2023, Assoc Prof Au Wing Lok, Chief Executive Officer, NNI, noted the differences between the two institutions and the joint vision they share.

“Siriraj Hospital was established in 1888. It is the oldest and largest teaching hospital in Thailand, with expertise in multiple specialties, whereas NNI was established in 1999 and focuses on neuroscience care. Despite our differences, we share a deep commitment to enhance the standard of care for our patients and this MOU will support both our institutions in this mission,” said Assoc Prof Au.

Siriraj Hospital and NNI have been providing neurointervention care since the 1990s.

“This MOU will reinforce and enhance the relationship between NNI and Siriraj Hospital and ensure knowledge transfer. This is important for nurturing the next generation of healthcare professionals, so they can continue to build on and advance the neurointervention services that have been established by today’s leaders,” said Professor Apichat Asavamongkolkul, Dean, Faculty of Medicine, Siriraj Hospital.

The MOU was initiated by Professor Anchalee Churojana, Chair of Department of Radiology, Siriraj Hospital and Dr Wickly Lee, Co-Director, Neurovascular Service, Endovascular Centre and Senior Consultant, Neuroradiology, NNI. The two interventional neuroradiologists met at a workshop in 2015. Shortly afterwards, Prof Anchalee invited Dr Lee to Siriraj Hospital to conduct a teaching session and reciprocal training between the two institutions has continued since.

Discussions on an MOU to formalise the collaboration began five years ago. Top of the agenda are exchange programmes between NNI and Siriraj Hospital to provide neurointervention doctors, nurses and allied health professionals the opportunity to hone their clinical skills and broaden their knowledge in workflow and clinical management methodologies.

“Neurointervention is a growing field and there is much interest from our neighbouring countries but sending specialists to Europe for training is expensive. Our longer-term aspiration is to establish a joint international fellowship programme with rotations at Siriraj Hospital and NNI, so trainees from Southeast Asia can learn from our centres and gain broad experience from the different patient profiles we see,” said Professor Anchalee.

Although Singapore and Thailand have unique identities, they face similar challenges with ageing populations and changing healthcare needs, which is why research is a key part of the MOU.

“Research collaborations could include combining anonymised data from the two institutions to create large volume data sets.  This can be used with emerging technologies to analyse pre-treatment evaluation and outcomes, such as aneurysm rupture risk profiles, to guide treatment decisions and maximise patient outcomes,” explained Dr Lee.

Another area of potential research collaboration is in neurointervention management of stroke, a leading cause of death and disability in Singapore and Thailand. Ischaemic stroke, which is caused by a blockage in blood vessels in the brain, is the most common type of stroke in both countries. However, the proportion of haemorrhagic stroke cases, (stroke caused by bleeding in the brain), is higher in Singapore and Thailand compared to Caucasian populations, highlighting the need for such research collaborations to advance care.