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First mobile stroke unit on west coast launched in Santa Monica

by John R. Fischer, Senior Reporter | November 01, 2017
Cardiology Mobile Imaging
UCLA Health has launched the
first mobile stroke unit on the U.S. west
coast for administering medication to
prevent brain debilitation
UCLA Health has launched the first mobile stroke unit on the west coast of the U.S., and the first in California, to quicken delivery of medication in the prevention of brain debilitation.

The UCLA Arline and Henry Gluck Mobile Stroke Rescue Program began phase one of its operations on September 11, dispatching specialized ambulance units and highly trained personnel to select 911 emergencies in Santa Monica, in coordination with the Santa Monica Fire Department. It plans to expand its services to other parts of Los Angeles County with support from the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

“We can help improve quality of life, and sometimes patients are really disability free for the rest of their life, which they otherwise would have not been,” Dr. May Nour, an interventional neurologist and medical director of the program, told HCB News. “In stroke, for every one minute that passes, there’s blockage of a blood vessel in the brain, depriving the brain of oxygenation. Over two million neurons die. In that sense, we know that time is of the essence.”

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Approximately 800,000 people in the U.S. suffer a stroke each year, with one occurring every forty seconds. Death by stroke occurs every four minutes, and one in six people are expected to experience a stroke in their lifetime.

The unit consists of a mobile CT scanner that can perform non-contrast and angiogram CT scans. It also has a mobile blood-testing laboratory and onboard are a paramedic, critical care nurse and CT technologist. A neurologist is also present, but upon further development of the program, will eventually oversee care from Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center via live video and voice connection.

Following scans, emergency medication is dispensed, providing treatment that ranges from bleeding reversal in brains to blood clot dislodgement. The program does not bill patients, as there is no mechanism of reimbursement currently, and it relies on philanthropic and special project funding.

Design, build and clinical rollout of the program were funded by a donation from the Arline and Henry Gluck Foundation. The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors has also contributed, voting this summer to provide the unit with nearly $1.5 million for it to operate weekly and to extend the program from 18 to 30 months. Funding will help expand geographic reach and come from Measure B, a county parcel tax for emergency and trauma services.

The unit will also be the west coast basis for the first national demonstration project for assessing improved patient outcomes and cost-effectiveness in accelerated field treatment.

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