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Colorado mobile stroke unit featured in New England Journal of Medicine study

Published: Sep. 22, 2021 at 8:36 AM MDT
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - UCHealth’s mobile stroke unit is one of eight of its kind featured in a New England Journal of Medicine study that was recently published after six years of data collection.

A UCHealth mobile stroke unit nurse called the research, “a benchmark study,” given that mobile stroke units have been popping up since 2014 and the study began in 2016. The study found mobile stroke units significantly improve patient outcomes compared to when stroke patients are treated in normal ambulances.

“We’re giving tissue plasminogen activator (TPA) treatment 36 minutes faster than the traditional ambulance rate, and our patients are 2.5 times more likely to have a better outcome or return to normal than traditional ambulance care,” said UCHealth mobile stroke unit nurse David Ornelas. “Those numbers are phenomenal, we’re just beside ourselves. We really hope that we will start seeing more of these pop-up around the nation and in other cities because they are beneficial.”

What’s inside the units is what sets them apart from traditional Emergency Medical Services (EMS). UCHealth’s mobile stroke unit contains a CAT scan machine for diagnoses, vital medicine specific to different kids of strokes, and a telehealth monitor for doctor video calls.

“[Doctors] are able to do a full comprehensive neuro-assessment with us on scene, and were able to consent the patient, consent the family members on scene, and actually establish and begin treatment on scene, before we even leave for the hospital,” Ornelas said.

He added these facts:

  • Strokes are the #1 cause of adult disabilities
  • Strokes are the #5 cause of death
  • 1.9 million brain cells die every minute a stroke goes untreated.

“We have the phrase ‘time as brain’, so we are always racing the clock to try to get treatment to help these patients, because once that damage is done there’s really not much we can do to reverse it,” Ornelas said.

He added, life-threatening disabilities can set in as soon as 10 minutes into a stroke. All this is why the UCHealth mobile stroke unit team wants people to know these signs of stroke, which include unusual issues with:

  • Balance
  • Vision
  • Speech
  • Face movement
  • Arm and leg movement

“Recognizing the symptoms, calling 911, and having some thing like a mobile stroke unit to get to these patients really helps improve those outcomes,” Ornelas said.

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