Rush University Medical Center in Chicago has unveiled a mobile stroke treatment unit that encompasses an ambulance outfitted with telemedicine technology and a CT scanner enabling brain imaging.
The event unveiling was at Rush Oak Park Hospital, where the mobile stroke treatment unit will be based. One of only a handful of specially designed and built units of its kind in the U.S., it will serve Illinois Region VII, which includes parts of the western suburbs, Rush officials stated. The mobile stroke unit brought to Rush Oak Park Hospital by the manufacturer, Excellence, is identical to one still being outfitted for Rush. It will be delivered in January.
“Presently patients cannot be treated for their stroke until they get to an emergency room. This new mobile stroke treatment unit will bring immediate stroke diagnosis and treatment to patients at their homes, or wherever they’re in need, which will improve their chances of a good recovery,” James Conners, M.D., medical director of the mobile stroke unit, said in a statement.
According to a Rush announcement, the mobile stroke treatment team will respond to 911 calls reporting symptoms indicating stroke along with a regular ambulance. If the paramedics determine the person did not have a stroke but has another medical problem, the mobile stroke unit will simply return to their base station. But, if a stroke is suspected, the team can perform CT scans of patients and using telemedicine, Rush stroke neurologists will evaluate the patients remotely and decide what kind of treatment is indicated.
At that point, the emergency medical technician and critical care nurse staffing the mobile unit will administer the appropriate stroke medication after conferring with the stroke neurologist at the same time they are transporting the patient to the most appropriate stroke center. The goal is to provide optimal treatment to stroke victims within the first "golden hour" after symptom onset, when it will do the most good, officials said.
"We know patients are up to four times more likely to have a good outcome if they are treated with tPA. Also, the sooner we treat patients, the more likely it is they will have minimal or even no disability,” Conners said. “With our standard process, it’s rare to be able to treat people within the first hour after onset, but with the mobile stroke unit we anticipate even better outcomes.”
The mobile stroke unit also will enhance treatment for patients who suffer from a hemorrhagic stroke, which occurs when a blood vessel in the brain leaks or bursts. Those patients can’t receive tPA, which could be fatal to them, and need a different type of medication to stop their bleeding.
The hope is that the new program will capture 75 percent of strokes in the service area in time to deliver optimal treatment for all stroke patients, officials attested.