A stroke is one of the most time-critical medical emergencies. If not treated quickly, a patient can quickly deteriorate as brain cells die from a lack of oxygen. Doctors aim to begin treating stroke patients within an hour from the onset of symptoms, something that is often difficult to do when relying on conventional ambulances.
To reduce the time to treatment and increase the likelihood of positive clinical outcomes for stroke victims, a dozen hospitals in the U.S. have developed mobile stroke units. The mobile stroke units are state-of-the-art ambulances equipped with all the technology and personnel needed to treat a stroke, including a mobile CT scanner, imaging technician, paramedic, nurse, neurologist, and tPA to bust a blood clot. They are also equipped with telemedicine technology to remotely consult with a neurologist or other specialist, as needed.
The mobile stroke units aren’t meant to replace traditional ambulances. When a 9-1-1 call is received for a suspected stroke, the mobile unit drives within a 7-8 mile radius while the patient is evaluated by paramedics in a regular ambulance. If an ischemic stroke is diagnosed, the mobile unit can continue to the victim’s location or can meet the patient halfway as he/she is transported in a regular ambulance.
Thanks to mobile stroke units, in areas where they’re available, one-third of stroke patients are being treated within the first hour after stroke symptoms start, as compared with less than 1 percent of those that are treated in the ER. They’re also making in-hospital stroke units more efficient for patients who may need an emergency procedure to remove a blood clot using a stent retriever, as they’ve already been triaged and partially treated in the mobile unit before reaching the hospital.
More info from the American Heart Association: Mobile stroke units designed to quickly reach, treat patients…