Mobile broadband link key to new mobile stroke units in Cleveland and Houston

Mobile broadband links are key to two new mobile stroke units being tested in Cleveland, Ohio, and Houston, Texas.

When minutes count, the telemedicine broadband link enables patients to receive an immediate diagnosis from a neurologist.

For the mobile unit being developed by the Cleveland Clinic, a briefcase sized telemedicine unit allows rapid transfer of the scans and videoconferencing with a neurologist while the unit is on the move, according to a report by The Plain Dealer newspaper.

The unit will also be able to perform a CT scan, get blood tests and start treatment with a clot-busting drug called tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), which needs to be delivered within an hour to be most effective. The drug treats ischemic stroke, which accounts for 87 percent of all strokes.

"The chance of getting better without tPA is almost zero," Peter Rasmussen, director of the Clinic's Cerebrovascular Center, tells the newspaper. "Time is unbelievably crucial," he adds.

In response to a 911 call for a possible stroke, the unit will launch with Cleveland EMS, which receives about 1,800 calls per year for potential strokes. After a stroke diagnosis from the neurologist, the patient is taken to the nearest stroke center.

A similar mobile stroke unit was unveiled earlier this year by the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth) Medical School in partnership with Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center (TMC).

"It typically takes roughly an hour once a stroke patient arrives in the emergency room to receive treatment. So if we can actually put the emergency room in the ambulance and take the CT scanner to the patient, we could treat the patient at the scene with the medication and save that hour," says James Grotta, director of stroke research at the Clinical Institute for Research & Innovation at Memorial Hermann-TMC. "That hour could mean saving 120 million brain cells," he adds.

Both mobile stroke units were inspired by one developed in Berlin, Germany, at the Charité-Universitätsmedizin Berlin teaching hospital.

For more:
- read The Plain Dealer article
- check out the UTHealth release

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