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‘Emergency Room on Wheels’ coming for Valley stroke victims

(Photo courtesy Barrow Neurological Institute)

PHOENIX — Minutes matter for stroke victims.

The Barrow Neurological Institute and Phoenix Fire partnered to provide an Emergency Stroke Treatment Unit to provide faster response times when treating stroke patients.

“This is basically an emergency room on wheels for stroke patients,” said Dr. Michael Waters, director of the Stroke Program at Barrow Neurological Institute. “We have the ability to go on-scene and gather a patient and do a quick analysis, diagnosis and initiate treatment right at the curbside.”

Currently, less than six percent of individuals suffering a stroke receive treatment within the recommended four-and-a-half hour time frame. And the chances of a good outcome for stroke victims decrease 10 percent every 30 minutes until blood flow is restored to the brain.

“This very unique vehicle actually has a portable CT scanner in it,” Waters said. “And it has nurses on board, a CT tech on board, and a telemedicine connection to a vascular neurologist who is monitoring everything remotely.”

Phoenix Fire Chief Kara Kalkbrenner said normally it can take as many as six hours for a person suffering from a stroke to receive those tests and get treatment by the time they get to the emergency room.

But now instead of waiting for first responders to get a stroke victim to the hospital, through the emergency for scans and receive treatment, Kalkbrenner said this unit will be with first responders.

“Responding to the scene and getting a quick identification that it truly is a stroke,” she said.  “As well getting the medication on board to get rid of the signs and symptoms and take care of the patient.”

The necessary drug is an anticoagulant medication.

“To help a patient start the recovery process once the brain is blocked,” she said. “Once you get the tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) on board, the blood can start perfusing again. Now they can breathe you don’t have permanent brain damage.”

Phoenix Fire responds to 8,000 CVA or stroke calls a year, she said.

Less than one percent of stroke patients receive treatment within an hour according to Barrow Neurological Institute.

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