Rush Mobile Stroke Unit to Rollout in Oak Park

(March 14, 2018) – Residents of Oak Park who report symptoms of stroke will soon have the opportunity to receive state-of-the-art, emergency stroke care at their own homes.

At the March 5 village board meeting, trustees approved the use of the Rush Mobile Stroke Unit in Oak Park. An official launch date for the unit to begin service in Oak Park is pending.

“The Village of Oak Park is excited to partner with Rush University Medical Center's new Mobile Stroke Unit,” said Village Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb. “This is an exciting advancement in health care that provides our residents with immediate stroke care.” 

The Rush Mobile Stroke Unit is a custom-built, state-of-the-art ambulance outfitted with telemedicine technology, brain imaging technology and drug therapies that are critical to accurately diagnose and immediately begin treatment for stroke. The unit dispatches directly to a potential stroke patient's location to begin treatment.  

The unit is based at Rush Oak Park Hospital and has been servicing the Broadview community since November. Rush is working to arrange Mobile Stroke Unit care in more communities in the near future.

"Rush is dedicated to helping its patients achieve the best possible outcomes," said Bruce Elegant, president and CEO of Rush Oak Park Hospital. "The Rush Mobile Stroke Unit along with the state-of-the-art Telestroke technology we have available in our Emergency Department are examples of our commitment to saving lives and preventing devastating complications in people who are suffering strokes."

Mobile stroke units are a new concept in the U.S. There are only six in service nationwide.

Quick treatment can mean difference between life and death

“Receiving the correct treatment for stroke quickly can mean the difference between life and death or disability, but in most cases treatment must be provided to patients shortly after a stroke to be effective,” said James Conners, MD, medical director of the Rush Comprehensive Stroke Center and the Rush Mobile Stroke Unit. “Presently, patients cannot be treated for their stroke until they get to an emergency department. This mobile stroke treatment unit brings 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.”

“We’re talking about having the ability to check patients in their own driveways for bleeding in the brain or blockage in their blood vessels,” says Demetrius Lopes, MD, surgical director of the Rush Comprehensive Stroke Center. “This ability is crucial, since stroke treatment decisions depend on CT scan imaging of the brain.”

Watch a video of the Rush Mobile Stroke Unit.

Goal is optimal treatment in the ‘golden hour’ after stroke symptoms begin

The mobile stroke team will respond to 911 calls reporting symptoms indicating stroke and can perform CT scans of patients promptly upon arrival. Rush radiologists will receive and analyze transmissions of these detailed brain images from the unit to determine whether a patient has experienced a stroke, and if so, which type of stroke it is. Rush stroke neurologists will evaluate the patients remotely and decide what kind of treatment is needed.

Critical care registered nurses staffing the mobile unit will administer the appropriate stroke medication after conferring with the stroke neurologist and then transport 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.

"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,” Conners said.

A stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain stops, causing brain cells to stop receiving oxygen. Stroke is the number one cause of disability and the fifth leading cause of death in the United States.

On average, someone has a stroke every 40 seconds. About 87 percent of all strokes are ischemic — that is, strokes that are caused by a clot that blocks a blood vessel carrying blood to the brain, cutting off the brain’s supply of oxygen and causing brain tissue to die.

How to identify a stroke

The American Stroke Association recommends using the acronym F.A.S.T. to spot the signs and symptoms of a stroke:

F – Facial droop

A – Arm weakness

S – Speech difficulty

T- Time to call 9-1-1!