UCHealth announces region’s first mobile stroke treatment unit

A first-of-its-kind medical service and research initiative to Colorado — one of only three such units in the U.S.
May 1, 2015

Contact: Dan Weaver; 720-848-7852; Dan.Weaver@UCHealth.org

AURORA, Colo. — University of Colorado Health (UCHealth) announced plans today to establish a Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit (MSTU) which will bring a first-of-its-kind medical service and research initiative to Colorado—one of only three such units in the U.S.

The key benefit of a MSTU is the speed with which health care professionals can administer critical blood clot-busting medications that can preserve brain function in the event of a stroke. Experts say, “time is brain” during a stroke, and quickly clearing a blood clot reduces the damage done to a patient’s brain.

The mobile stroke treatment unit looks like an ambulance but is more like a specialized emergency department on wheels, designed to deliver expert stroke care to the patient in the community. The MSTU will carry a CT scanner, lab testing, a critical care-trained nurse, and telestroke equipment on board that allows for remote evaluation of the patient and review of the brain scan by a stroke neurologist. If the specialists determine the patient is truly having a stroke, treatment with clot-busting medicine (t-PA) can immediately begin at the scene or en route to the hospital.

“The highly-trained stroke teams at hospitals throughout UCHealth are focused on providing life-saving treatments to stroke patients as quickly as possible,” said William Jones, MD, medical director of the stroke service at the University of Colorado Hospital. “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.”

UCHealth is working closely with local governments, fire departments and EMS services to develop a plan that will best serve the citizens of Colorado. We hope to serve patients in Aurora, Denver and Colorado Springs with the mobile stroke treatment unit. By splitting time between these cities, researchers will be able to examine patients’ outcomes and participate in a national research study into medical benefits for stroke patients treated by a MSTU.

“The mobile treatment unit will support and complement the excellent care provided by local EMS and fire departments, and we’ll collaborate when responding to a possible stroke,” said Richard Zane, UCHealth’s executive director of emergency services and chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine. “We will also work closely with all hospitals in the regions as stroke patients will continue to be transported to the closest and most appropriate hospital that meets their needs.”

Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States and the leading cause of adult disability.  When a stroke occurs, for every minute treatment is delayed, 1.9 million neurons can die, increasing the chance of death or disability. Current stroke treatment calls for rapid transport to the emergency department where the clot-busting medications should be administered within 45-60 minutes of arrival to give patients the best chance of recovery.

The stroke treatment and research provided 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 future stroke patients for years to come.

“New technology like mobile stroke treatment units and telestroke are bringing significant advancements to how we care for stroke patients,” said Janice Miller, MD, medical director of stroke 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.”

University of Colorado Hospital is a Joint Commission-Certified Comprehensive Stroke Center, and Memorial Hospital, Poudre Valley Hospital and Medical Center of the Rockies are all Primary Stroke Centers.

About UCHealth

University of Colorado Health is a Front Range health system that delivers the highest quality patient care with the highest quality patient experience.  University of Colorado Health combines Memorial Hospital, Poudre Valley Hospital, Medical Center of the Rockies, Colorado Health Medical Group, and University of Colorado Hospital into an organization dedicated to health and providing unmatched patient care in the Rocky Mountain West. UCHealth partners with the University of Colorado School of Medicine and numerous community organizations to provide care. Separately, these institutions can continue providing superior care to patients and service to the communities they serve. Together, they push the boundaries of medicine, attracting more research funding, hosting more clinical trials and improving health through innovation.

About the author

UCHealth is an innovative, nonprofit health system that delivers the highest quality medical care with an excellent patient experience. With 24,000 employees, UCHealth includes 12 acute-care full-service hospitals and hundreds of physicians across Colorado, southern Wyoming and western Nebraska. With University of Colorado Hospital on the Anschutz Medical Campus as its academic anchor and the only adult academic medical center in the region, UCHealth pushes the boundaries of medicine, providing advanced treatments and clinical trials and improving health through innovation.