UF Health rolls out Florida’s first mobile stroke treatment unit
The purpose of the vehicle is to allow emergency responders to properly diagnose and treat stroke victims as they are being transported to the nearest stroke treatment center.
More than 15,000 Floridians die from a stroke each year. Some strokes last for a few minutes while others continue for hours or even days.
How quickly someone having a stroke receives care can mean the difference between full brain function and a lifelong disability — or death.
That was on the minds of UF Health emergency staff as the new mobile stroke treatment unit hit the road Tuesday in Gainesville. It is the only mobile stroke treatment unit in Florida and one of 20 mobile stroke programs in the nation.
The purpose of the new vehicle is to allow emergency responders to properly diagnose and treat stroke victims as they are being transported to the nearest stroke treatment center.
A $1.5 million commitment from an anonymous donor helped start planning on the Gainesville unit. Another $1 million came from UF Health The Villages Hospital Auxiliary Foundation to help construct a unit that will be stationed at The Villages, according to a UF Health press release.
Personnel from UF Health and Alachua County Fire Rescue manned the vehicle. This includes a stroke nurse, a CT (computerized tomography) technologist, an EMT driver, a paramedic and a stroke neurologist standing by on telemedicine, according to a news release from UF Health.
“There are possibilities or potential for individuals who are having a stroke to be having other medical emergencies,” said Lt. David Lykens with Alachua County Fire Rescue on why having collaboration between UF Health and ACFR is important. “In which case, Alachua County Fire Rescue paramedics would then step in and assist in treating those types of patients.”
According to UF Health, the vehicle has equipment specifically useful to help a patient having a stroke. It includes a diagnostic CT scanner, clot-busting drugs, medication given intravenously to lower blood pressure, and medication that can reverse the effects of bleeding inside the brain.
Every second counts when a patient is having a stroke.
“Every minute that a stroke goes untreated, a patient is losing about 2 million brain cells that are not recoverable,” said Nicolle Davis, director of UF Health’s mobile stroke program. “What happens with the mobile stroke treatment unit is we bring the hospital to that patient to be able to diagnose and treat that stroke immediately in the field.”
A study from the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston found patients who are transported by a mobile stroke treatment unit received clot-busting procedures on average 10 minutes faster than when one is transported in a standard ambulance. The study found this could save up to 270 million neurons per patient.
Receiving a tPA or TNK, two types of clot-busting drugs, within an hour is most effective in helping treat the patient. This hour is commonly known as the “Golden Hour” because of this.
According to UF Health, receiving these drugs within an hour also lowers the probability of receiving a disability following treatment.
On the first day of operation, the unit responded to four stroke calls between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m.
The new life-saving unit will not be the only one UF Health puts on the road. It will soon deploy a unit in The Villages and in Jacksonville.