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Your Healthy Family: UCLA adds mobile stroke unit to national study

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When treating stroke victims, every second counts. But in large cities, dense traffic can make it difficult to get a patient to the emergency room in a timely manner, and in rural areas, specialized care can be miles away. So UCLA Health is testing a new, hi-tech “mobile stroke unit” to help medical personnel start treatment in the field, potentially leading to higher survival rates and better outcomes for patients.

“The goal is to reach the patient and start treatment in what’s known as the “golden hour,” or the first hour after a stroke occurs,” said May Nour, MD, PhD, medical director of the mobile stroke unit at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center.  “A few minutes can be the difference between a father spending the rest of his days with his family and walking his daughter down the aisle, or spending the rest of his life in a nursing home.”     

UCLA Health, like UCHealth in Colorado is now part of growing national study to test the value of starting stroke care in the field.  “When stroke victims are not treated quickly, they are more likely to need a lifetime of costly care,” said Nour.  “If we are able to treat and improve outcomes for 25 patients over a 5-year period, we will break even on the cost of the mobile stroke unit.”

Dr. Williams Jones, MD, is the UCHealth Mobile Stroke Unit medical director.  “Units like this are both expensive to build and to operate and so it's very important that we show that this actually brings a benefit to patients."

The vehicles bring the hospital to the patient, allowing doctors to make a diagnosis, administer medication and even conduct CT scans before arriving at the hospital.

“A mobile stroke unit can go out to a region where there’s no CT scanner and rendezvous halfway with an ambulance,” said Jeffrey Saver, MD, a neurologist at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center. “A team of experts in the mobile stroke unit brings proven stroke care straight to the patient, giving them a much better chance of living a longer, healthier life.”

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