Mobile Unit to Treat Stroke Patients in Home

Oct. 26, 2016 - (Oak Park, Ill) – Rush unveiled a unique mobile stroke treatment unit — a specially built, state-of-the-art ambulance outfitted with telemedicine technology and a CT scanner enabling brain imaging that is critical to accurate stroke diagnoses and treatment. The mobile stroke treatment unit, one of only a handful of specially designed and built units of its kind in the United States, will be based at Rush Oak Park Hospital and serve communities in a five-mile radius.

Receiving the correct treatment for stroke quickly is based on accurate diagnosis of the stroke with a rapid neurologic assessment and CT scan. Faster diagnosis and subsequent treatment can mean the difference between life and death. In most cases, treatment must be provided to patients shortly after a stroke to be effective.

“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,” said James Conners, MD, medical director of the Mobile Stroke Unit.

“We will have the ability to check patients in their own homes and driveways for bleeding in the brain or blockage in their blood vessels,” said Demetrius Lopes, MD, surgical director of the Rush Comprehensive Stroke Center. “This ability is crucial, since stroke treatment decisions depend on CT imaging of the brain.”

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. If 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. 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.

“The CT in the Mobile Stroke Unit will allow us not only to obtain brain but also blood vessel pictures,” Lopes added. “This information is essential to determine the level of care the patient needs.”

The mobile stroke treatment unit is anticipated to be up and running in January.