According to the AHA (American Heart Association), when it comes to stroke, it’s all about acting FAST (face, arms, speech, time). And while comprehensive stroke centers have gotten pretty good at triaging and imaging and treating patients, the time it takes for the ambulance to transport the patient to the hospital eats up precious minutes.
The University of California, Los Angeles will now be trialing an ambulance equipped with everything a typical ambulance has, but also a CT scanner and CT tech to operate it, a blood lab, a neurologist, critical care nurse, and a paramedic. The technology is not exactly new, and CT equipped ambulances have already been tried in other places. The goal here is to see if stroke patients have better outcomes when served via the new Mobile Stroke Unit compared to traditional ambulance, and whether there may be a cost savings to society by avoiding costly post-stroke therapy and rehab in these patients. Answers to these questions will help determine whether there will be a wider adoption of such ambulances, and if the relevant public health authorities will be willing to pay for them.
The imaging is provided by a CereTom mobile CT scanner made by NeuroLogica, now a part of Samsung. The 8-slice scanner is made just for imaging the head, and is small enough to rig up inside a large enough ambulance. The neurologist inside the ambulance will guide the process and analyze scans. In the future, though, it is expected that the doctor won’t have to come along, but will connect via two way video and voice connection to communicate with everyone in the ambulance. The scans will also be immediately transferred to the doc’s computer for quick assessment.