Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit comes to Colorado Springs

Stroke patients benefit from swift treatment
Aug. 4, 2016
From left, UCHealth’s Mobile Stroke Coordinator Brandi Schimpf, RN, briefs Christopher Smith, RN; CT technologist John Violette; EMT Martha Creazzo; and paramedic Desmond McNeal before a simulated stroke run on Dec. 23, 2015.

UCHealth’s Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit – the third such vehicle in the United States — will begin operating in Colorado Springs this month, bringing fast, first-of-its-kind services to stroke victims in southern Colorado.

During a stroke, time is critically important. The unit enables a stroke-trained team to quickly evaluate a patient and administer blood clot-busting medication in the field rather than waiting for a patient to arrive at a hospital. Such swift treatment can be crucial to preserving brain function; with every minute treatment is delayed in a stroke, 1.8 million brain cells die.

The Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit (MSTU) looks like an ambulance but is more like a specialized emergency department on wheels. The unit carries a CT scanner, a critical care-trained nurse, a CT tech, an EMS provider and telestroke equipment on board that allows for remote evaluation of the patient and review of the brain scan by a stroke neurologist.

“The highly-trained stroke teams at hospitals throughout UCHealth are focused on providing life-saving treatments to stroke patients as quickly as possible,” said Dr. William Jones, medical director of stroke services for UCHealth. “Until now, we’ve had to wait until a patient arrives at the hospital to treat them. Now, our teams are able to actually examine a patient and start treatment before they even arrive at the emergency department.”

The MSTU will be part of a national research study into the medical benefits for stroke treatments provided by the unit. It will split time between Colorado Springs and Aurora, where the unit has been operational for four months.

Violette points out details of the Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit (MSTU) to Smith as the MSTU prepares for departure.

“This is something that advances medicine in our community,’’ said Tamera Dunseth Rosenbaum, associate chief nursing officer for UCHealth Memorial Hospital. “This is an investment in our staff and in the community and that’s really why we are here, is to provide better outcomes for patients in our community.’’

The stroke treatment and research delivered by the MSTU is providing a foundation that may change the standard of care for stroke across the country and may result in improved quality of life for stroke patients for years to come. Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States and the leading cause of adult disability.

“New technology like mobile stroke treatment units and telestroke are bringing significant advancements to how we care for stroke patients,” said Janice Miller, MD, stroke medical director at Memorial Hospital. “I’m excited about providing a higher level of care and reducing the potential long-term, devastating effects that a stroke can cause.”

Meghan Wilson-Zuccarello, a paramedic with American Medical Response, will be part of a team of caregivers who will provide care for stroke patients in Colorado Springs.

“I think it is fantastic. It is exciting new medical technology, and having the ability to provide Emergency Room treatments in the field is fantastic.

“We’ll be bringing the ER to the house and treating a patient right there,’’ Wilson-Zuccarello said.

Kevin Ozburn, an emergency medical technician for AMR, said he is hopeful that the presence of the MSTU in Colorado Springs will result in faster delivery of clot-busting drugs for patients.

“I think this is going to be an amazing thing,’’ Ozburn said.

About the author

Cary Vogrin is a media relations specialist for UCHealth. She joined UCHealth in 2015, coordinating media stories and responding to media requests for UCHealth hospitals and clinics in southern Colorado.

Prior to joining UCHealth, Vogrin was a newspaper reporter and editor, having worked at The Fort Dodge Messenger in Fort Dodge, Iowa; The Contra Costa Times in Walnut Creek, California; The Rocky Mountain News in Denver, Colorado; and The Gazette in Colorado Springs, where she covered health care.