Quickly receiving correct stroke treatment can mean the difference between life and death or disability. The disease is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, and more than 795,000 people have strokes each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
To make crucial stroke care more immediately available, the Rush Comprehensive Stroke Center is planning a mobile stroke unit housed at Rush Oak Park Hospital. The unit will bring faster diagnosis and treatment to patients at their homes or wherever they’re in need. Serving parts of the western suburbs, this unit will be one of only a handful of its kind in the country.
A generous four-year grant from The Grainger Foundation in Lake Forest, Illinois, will fund the unit’s creation. This enhanced ambulance will contain telemedicine technology and a CT scanner.
With the goal of helping stroke victims within the first “golden hour” after symptoms begin, the mobile unit personnel will be able to provide the appropriate stroke medication when needed and transport the patient to the most suitable stroke center.
“We’ve been trying to cut down the ‘door to needle times’” — the time it takes a patient to be treated in the emergency room — as much as possible, said James Conners, MD, medical director of the Rush Mobile Stroke Unit. The performance of other mobile stroke units in the U.S. has shown the time from onset of symptoms to treatment can be shortened by half, with the average patient being treated within 30 minutes.
The mobile stroke team will respond to 911 calls reporting possible stroke symptoms and can perform CT scans of patients upon arrival. Rush radiologists and neurologists will receive, analyze and evaluate transmissions of these detailed brain images remotely to determine which type of stroke the patient experienced and what kind of treatment is needed.
“We will be able to check patients in their own driveways for bleeding in the brain or blockage in their blood vessels,” said Conners. “This is crucial, since stroke diagnoses and treatment decisions depend on CT scan imaging of the brain.”
Community outreach and education in the region is also part of the grant program to help people better recognize stroke symptoms in friends, loved ones or themselves. Rush will also work to establish partnerships with other hospitals and local municipalities in the service area.