CLEVELAND - It is one of the first in the United States, and certainly a first for Cleveland. It is expected to make an enormous difference for stroke patients when every passing minute affects how well they recover.
In Cuyahoga County alone, more than 5,600 stroke patients are hospitalized every year. Despite the approval of the clot-busting drugs known as tPA nearly twenty years ago, across the Cleveland Clinic Health System only 15 percent of those arrive in time to benefit from it. The drug is used when a patient is having an ischemic stroke, one caused by a blood clot. The vast majority of strokes are ischemic.
Dr. Peter Rasmussen, Director of Cleveland Clinic's Cerebrovascular Center said bringing diagnosis and treatment to the patient should make a real difference in short and long term outcomes. "Brain cells really only have a few minutes to live without blood flow, so we really need to get treatment to patients as rapidly as possible. There's no question if we treat patients at 90 minutes, they do much better than at 180 minutes. And the goal (with the mobile unit) is to initiate treatment at 30 to 40 minutes."
Dr. Rasmussen said they anticipate the mobile stroke treatment unit will have a tremendous impact on patients, their quality of life and ability to recover, "with the goal of getting people home and back to work as opposed to long term care and rehabilitation."
The Cleveland Clinic Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit will be dispatched with EMS when a stroke is suspected. A paramedic, critical care nurse, a CT technologist and EMS driver will be on the team. After receiving treatment on the scene, patients will be transported to the nearest primary stroke center. The mobile unit is based at the Cleveland Clinic's main campus in Cleveland.
This approach has been proven effective in Germany for several years. Its launch in Cleveland has been possible with support from the Maltz Family Foundation which made a $1 million gift. Dr. Rasmussen also cited the support of the city of Cleveland and Verizon, which has supported the unit's telemedicine component, allowing a Clinic doctor to get a visual assessment and talk directly to the patient via the onboard video monitor and camera.
It is essential that everyone be familiar with symptoms of stroke, easily remembered with the acronym FAST.
Face: Numbness, tingling or drooping on one side
Arm: Is one arm weak or numb? Can both be raised, or does one drift downward?
Speech: Is speech slurred? Is the patient hard to understand?
Time: Note the time of symptom onset so you can tell medical personnel. Call 9-1-1 if any of these symptoms appear, even if they seem to go away.