Barrow Emergency Stroke Treatment Unit
Stroke is a leading cause of death and disability in the United States. Every hour, minute, and even second a stroke remains untreated results in the loss of nerve cells and increases the risk of lasting neurological deficits.
The majority of strokes are caused by a clot, and the gold standard treatment is a prompt injection of the clot-dissolving drug tPA (tissue plasminogen activator). Unfortunately, too many stroke victims around the country aren’t receiving treatment within the three-hour window recommended by the American Stroke Association.
We launched the Barrow Emergency Stroke Treatment Unit in 2017, in partnership with the Phoenix Fire Department, to dramatically speed diagnosis and treatment times for stroke patients in the Phoenix area.
“Because we know that fast treatment can greatly reduce the effects of stroke, we’ve adopted this new method to change the way stroke victims are treated,” said Dr. Michael Waters, director of the Stroke Program at Barrow.
In the first two years of operation, the Barrow mobile stroke unit averaged a dispatch-to-tPA administration time of 43 minutes, with an average dispatch-to-scene time of 14 minutes.
The Barrow Emergency Stroke Treatment Unit was the first mobile stroke unit in the country to operate around the clock in a city with a population greater than 1 million. The unit is based at Barrow Neurological Institute and has a 20-minute response radius.
The 26-foot-long, 10-foot-wide, 11-ton vehicle functions like a mobile emergency room. It is equipped with a portable computed tomography (CT) scanner to identify whether stroke symptoms are caused by a clot, bleed, or condition mimicking a stroke. The mobile stroke unit is always staffed with a CT technician and at least one stroke-certified nurse, who can administer tPA before the patient even arrives at the hospital. The team uses live telemedicine technology to connect with the on-call stroke physician, who evaluates the patient over video and reviews the CT images remotely.
I just think what a miracle it is and how many lives it’s going to save. It’s amazing. Saved my life. I’m one of them.
-LaVon Medina, Barrow Mobile Stroke Unit Patient
Stroke victims don’t need to call the Barrow mobile stroke unit in an emergency. The Phoenix Fire Department dispatchers deploy the unit automatically when they receive a 911 call indicating a possible stroke within the 20-minute response radius of Barrow.
“By deploying a mobile emergency room that includes the latest technology and medical expertise, we will be able to treat stroke patients much quicker than traditional methods,” Dr. Waters said. “This enables us to take the next step in providing our community with the most advanced stroke care.”
See How It Works:
Barrow Neurological Institute Stroke Critical Care Nurse Richard Hernandez, RN, shares what happens when you call 911 and the Phoenix Fire Department dispatches the mobile stroke unit.