Mobile stroke units tied to higher chances of averting stroke

Patients who receive care in a mobile stroke unit may have a better chance of averting a stroke and complete recovery relative to those who receive standard hospital emergency care, new research suggests. 

Researchers from medical centers across the U.S. looked at multicenter trial data from 2014 to 2020. They evaluated 655 patients who were treated with tissue plasminogen activator, or t-P — a mainstay intravenous medication used to break up a blood clot and restore flow to the brain — in a mobile stroke unit, and 365 who received hospital EMS care. 

Overall, about 1 in 6 averted a stroke with no evidence of brain injury. On average, patients treated by a mobile stroke unit received t-PA 37 minutes faster than those who received EMS care. About 18% of those who received MSU care averted a stroke, relative to 11% who received standard care. Nearly a third of patients who received MSU care recovered within 24 hours, relative to 21%. 

MSUs are equipped with a CAT scan machine, medication to break up blood clots and technology to connect to physicians. 

"On average, the faster you treat someone, the more likely you are to have a good functional outcome because you're able to preserve more brain tissue," Babak Benjamin Navi, MD, lead study author and chief of stroke and hospital neurology at New York City-based Weill Cornell Medicine's neurology department, said in a news release. "The brain can only sustain reduced blood flow for so long before permanent injury develops."

Researchers are working on future studies to evaluate cost effectiveness, with the goal of getting MSU services covered in reimbursement models. 

The findings were published Oct. 6 in Annals of Neurology. 

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