UCHealth mobile stroke unit

The UCHealth Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit May 4, 2018. Photo by Mark Reis

UCHealth's Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit in Aurora and Colorado Springs contributed to a national study that found mobile stroke units save lives and improve  patient care. 

The study, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine, found that patients who were treated in the mobile stroke units were less likely to suffer from lingering symptoms or suffer significant disabilities due to stroke symptoms compared to patients transported by a traditional ambulance, according to a release from UCHealth. 

Mobile stroke units are specialized response vehicles that have a CT scanner, testing equipment and a two-way visual communication system that allows neurologists to view scans and order a patient t-PA, a medication that dissolves clots in the brain, to a patient in real time.

Additionally, the first responders are specifically trained to diagnose and treat stroke patients. 

"Each and every day, the stroke specialists, nurses and mobile stroke unit teams are focusing on providing the fastest and highest quality care possible for patients, and the mobile stroke treatment units are key to expediting such treatment," said Dr. William Jones, an investigator in the trial, medical director of the tele stroke and mobile stroke treatment unit at UCHealth. 

The study looked at 1,047 patients from Aurora, Colorado Springs, Houston, Memphis, New York, Indianapolis, Los Angeles and Burlingame, Calif. About 100 of the patients were from Colorado, according to UCHealth. 

Researchers found that patients treated in a mobile stroke unit receive t-PA about 35 minutes faster than those in a traditional ambulance and the mortality rate dropped from 11.9% in traditional ambulances to 8.9% in mobile stroke units. 

"We have long known that 'time is brain' when it comes to treating stroke. Large numbers of brain cells die each minute they are deprived of oxygen," said Dr. Janice Miller, a stroke specialist at UcHealth Memorial Hospital in Colorado Springs and an investigator in the trial. "The MSU study has clearly shown that the time saved by bringing stroke treatment into the homes, workplaces and other locations in our community makes a positive difference in a stroke patient's outcome and ability to return home after a stroke."

UCHealth launched its Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit in 2016; it has been dispatched 1,440 times in Aurora since. In Colorado Springs, there has been a greater need as the unit has been dispatched 2,160 times, according to UCHealth.

Jones said the study proved that mobile stroke units save lives and encourages more facilities to invest in the program.

"MSUs are saving lives and improving outcomes," Jones said. "I hope the study encourages more hospitals to invest and expand their programs."