LVHN and Cetronia Ambulance Corps partner to provide PA’s first mobile stroke care
Lehigh Valley Health Network and Cetronia Ambulance Corps announced recently they will jointly operate a new mobile stroke unit, the first in Pennsylvania. The mobile stroke unit will begin evaluation and treatment sooner, potentially preventing damage to the brain while the patient is transported to a stroke-certified facility like Lehigh Valley Hospital – Cedar Crest’s comprehensive stroke center.
“Mobile stroke care could improve intervention time by up to 20 to 30 minutes, which could have a significant impact on the outcome for the patient,” neurologist Yevgeniy Isayev, M.D., director of the comprehensive stroke center at LVH–Cedar Crest said. The stroke center was certified in 2012 by The Joint Commission as the first comprehensive stroke center in Pennsylvania, the highest level of certification. LVHN’s comprehensive stroke center cares for more than 1,500 stroke patients annually.
Saving time is the idea behind the new mobile stroke unit that is expected to become operational in mid-April. The mobile stroke ambulance will bring the highest level of diagnostic equipment, stroke treatments and specially educated crew right to the patient, allowing care to begin immediately instead of waiting to reach a hospital. Both LVHN and Cetronia will provide the clinical staff including EMTs and paramedics from Cetronia. LVHN also is providing neurological support from expert neurologic physicians who are available to provide assessment and treatment orders.
Isayev said the mobile stroke unit will be equipped with computed tomography and video and telehealth technology to help caregivers determine what type of stroke the patient is experiencing and begin treatment before arriving at the hospital. Isayev said the unit equips qualified first responders with clot-busting and blood-thickening medications they can administer to the patient enroute to a stroke center rather than waiting until the patient arrives to begin treatment.
The unit will be stationed at Cetronia headquarters in Allentown and its in-house emergency communications center will manage deployment of the unit to ensure it reaches as many stroke patients as possible.
“Cetronia is proud to partner with Lehigh Valley Health Network on this latest innovation in rapid response care for stroke victims,” Larry Wiersch, CEO, Cetronia Ambulance Corps, said. “As a leader in emergency medical services, we see this as yet another meaningful opportunity to advance the quality of pre-hospital care for families in our community.”
Wiersch said stroke is one of the most devastating illnesses a patient can experience. “My own father, a healthy retiree with no prior medical issues, suffered a devastating stroke that contributed to his premature death. That was before we had access to the advanced technology and onsite care made possible with this new mobile stroke unit. Our fervent hope is that this team effort between two proven leaders in community health will accelerate the critical treatment time for stroke and change the outcomes for countless future patients and their families.”
Stroke occurs when blood flow to the brain is disrupted by either a blood clot that blocks a vital blood vessel supplying the brain (ischemic stroke) or a burst vessel that spills blood into surrounding tissues (hemorrhagic stroke). “Almost two million brain cells die every minute during a stroke,” Isayev says. “Timing of care is one of the most important factors in recovery.”
The mobile stroke unit also will assess if a patient has contraindications to clot-busting medication or whether a stroke involves a major artery blockage that may be too massive for medication to treat effectively – a determination normally made only after arrival at a hospital. The crew could rush such victims to the Comprehensive Stroke Center – where equipment and expertise to perform a specialized endovascular procedure that uses a number of catheter-based therapies to capture and remove brain-threatening blood clots is available 24/7.
“Stroke experts have a saying: Time is brain. “Every minute that you save in caring for a stroke results in better outcomes,” Claranne Mathiesen, R.N., director medical operations, neurosciences service line at LVHN.
“If you think you’re having a stroke, call 911. That call will dispatch local EMS and if indicated, the mobile stroke unit, and starts the clock ticking in our goal to save brain.”