NYC hospital, FDNY launch mobile stroke ambulance

The unit is equipped with stroke-specific medications and a portable CT scanner


By EMS1 Staff

NEW YORK — The FDNY, in collaboration with NewYork-Presbyterian, Weill Cornell Medicine and Columbia University Medical Center is launching a Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit, the first of its kind on the East Coast. The MSTU is an emergency vehicle specially equipped to provide immediate, specialized care to patients who may be having a stroke.

Every year, more than 795,000 people in the United States suffer from a blockage in an artery of the brain, making stroke one of the most widespread and debilitating conditions and a leading cause of serious long-term disability. Such blockages can deprive the brain of blood flow and oxygen, which over the course of minutes can lead to death or disability.

The Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit.
The Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit. (Photo/New-York Presbyterian)

“The Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit delivers the most advanced technologies, expert staff and life-saving treatment to more stroke victims in need,” Dr. Steven J. Corwin, president and CEO of NewYork-Presbyterian, said. “We are very proud to be the only hospital on the East Coast to provide these services. This is a remarkable achievement as we move forward in revolutionizing stroke care.”

Staffed by a highly specialized team of two paramedics from the Regional Emergency Medical Services Council of New York City, a computed tomography technologist and a neurologist, the MSTU is designed to reduce the time from the onset of symptoms to the delivery of care, a crucial factor in improving stroke outcomes. 

The unit also contains equipment and medications specific to diagnosing and treating strokes, including a medication called tPA, which dissolves the clot and improves blood flow to the part of the brain being deprived of blood in the event of an ischemic stroke. 

It is complete with a portable CT scanner that can image the patient’s brain on the spot to detect if the patient is having a stroke. The CT scan is then wirelessly transmitted to NewYork-Presbyterian, where it is evaluated by a neuroradiologist.

“The most effective method in saving a stroke victim’s life is to diagnose and treat immediately after a stroke occurs,” Dr. Matthew Fink, the neurologist-in-chief at the medical center, said. “The MSTU rapidly brings a neurologist and advanced technologies of an emergency room directly to the patient, offering state-of-the-art care that is only moments away. This is just the beginning — there will be a number of innovative clinical treatments that we will be developing in the future for the treatment of stroke in the field.”

The city’s 911 system via the FDNY will deploy the unit into communities surrounding NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center when a patient is experiencing stroke symptoms.

“The FDNY is proud to partner with NewYork-Presbyterian to bring the Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit into the 911 system, making this advanced, lifesaving care readily available to patients suffering a stroke,” Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro said. “This new unit will work closely with FDNY paramedics, EMTs and firefighters on some of the most serious medical calls the department responds to, increasing the level of pre-hospital care our patients receive, preventing further long-term effects due to patients who have suffered a stroke and potentially saving many more lives.”

The MSTU team will follow up with each patient after admission and gather information about their outcomes after 90 days; the percentage of patients treated on the MSTU who made a full recovery will be compared to those delivered by standard EMS transport and overall cost of care. 

Researchers will share information with similar units throughout the country for a larger analysis on best treatment practices for emergency stroke care.

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