This year marks the fourth anniversary of the Mercy Health – Life Flight Network Mobile Stroke Unit. Funded by the Mercy Health Foundation, the Mobile Stroke Unit is a special ambulance with a CT scanner and physician presence via telemedicine technology. The vehicle allows stroke treatment for patients to begin as quickly as possible in the field.
Our Mobile Stroke Unit was one of the first four to go live in the country and is based out of the Mercy Health – St. Charles Hospital. It currently serves Lucas, Wood, Sandusky, and Ottawa counties in Ohio. Since it began operation, nearly 1,000 patients have been served by the unit.
How the Mobile Stroke Unit works
When an individual calls 9-1-1, the dispatcher asks a series of questions to find out if stroke care is needed. If so, both a standard EMS Unit and the Mobile Stroke Unit will be dispatched.
While the Mobile Stroke Unit looks like a regular ambulance on the outside, it is more like a small intensive care unit on wheels. It contains equipment and medications used specifically for diagnosing and treating strokes. It is also staffed with a specially trained registered nurse, paramedic, and CT technologist.
Additionally, a physician is present in the Mobile Stroke Unit via telemedicine technology. Through two-way video conferencing communication, the patient is evaluated by the stroke specialist to determine the best course of treatment before even leaving for the hospital.
A CT scan of the brain can be completed and uploaded within two minutes for both a radiologist and neurologist for review. This imaging helps stroke specialists determine the type of stroke a patient is having and allows physicians to make quick care decisions. The mobile stroke unit also allows the on-site medical team to reverse anticoagulants, manage blood pressure, and control airway for patients.
Life-changing stroke response
The Mobile Stroke Unit is an extension of the Mercy Health – St. Vincent Medical Center and it’s top-notch comprehensive stroke center. Eugene Lin, MD, medical director of mobile stroke unit, leads the tele stroke provider team and has been part of the unit’s operation since day one.
“The Mobile Stroke Unit is a very important part of our comprehensive program for stroke patients, and for making tests and treatments accessible,” says Dr. Lin.
Today, the Mobile Stroke Unit is an extremely well-oiled machine with tremendous trust between providers and staff.
“We are able to staff the Mobile Stroke Unit in an efficient way,” says Dr. Lin. “By taking advantage of a strong telemedicine program, a device can be brought into the home and connect a patient to a tele stroke network in real time.”
Strokes are the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. A stroke is a medical emergency and time is of the essence. The sooner a patient receives medical care, the better chance they will survive a stroke and recover from its effects.
“The Mobile Stroke Unit is resource intensive,” says Dr. Lin. “Studies around the world are demonstrating how this is the best way to treat stroke patients. This way changes the paradigm — rather than waiting for patients to come to the ER, we are able to get out to patients to reduce patient wait time.”
Learn more about the stroke services offered at Mercy Health.