Stroke care on the go: tPA

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- Stroke is the third leading cause of death in the U.S. claiming the lives of more than 140,000 Americans each year. But many lives could be spared if treatment was given sooner. Now, a new program is aiming to speed up treatment time and save lives, its stroke care on the go.

Every 40 seconds someone in the U.S. suffers a stroke. Brad Fahrenkamp told ABC30, "My left arm and part of my face were numb and tingling and when I went to stand up to dress myself I fell right to the floor."

Jessie Porter, another stroke patient said, "It never occurred to me that it could possibly be a stroke. It didn't even cross my mind."

But getting treatment quickly can make all the difference. Peter Rasmussen, MD, Neurosurgeon of the Cleveland Clinic says the life-saving drug tPA must be delivered within four and a half hours of a stroke or less, and the sooner the better!

Dr. Rasmussen told ABC30, "Unfortunately in the United States only between 3 and 8 percent of Americans get tPA if they're having a stroke."

Doctors at the Cleveland Clinic are trying to change that with a new mobile stroke unit. It travels to the emergency scene when a stroke is suspected.

"I can't really think of a faster way that you could deliver stroke care to a patient," Dr. Rasmussen said.

The unit is equipped with a CT scanner. The mobile team can scan a patient's brain and perform lab tests right away. The results are sent to a neurologist at the hospital who can make a diagnosis via a broadband telemedicine link. The on-board staff can then deliver treatment before the patient even gets to the ER.

Dr. Rasmussen explained, "We're able to initiate therapy at the scene immediately."

Preliminary studies show the mobile unit is working. Less than 10 percent of patients nationwide receive tPA. With the mobile unit, more than 30 percent are getting the drug.

"I'm convinced this is a better way to deliver stroke care to the people of this country," Dr. Rasmussen told ABC30. It's stroke care on the go that could save lives.

The Cleveland Clinic implemented the mobile stroke unit after visiting a hospital in Berlin that used a similar technique. That hospital was able to cut down on the time it took to deliver tPA by more than 30 minutes. The unit costs a little less than $1 million and it will likely cost about $1 million a year to staff it. But doctors say it may actually be a money saver if it can help prevent more stroke patients from needing rehabilitation or life-long nursing care.

For more information, contact:

Andrea Pacetta
Cleveland Clinic media Relations

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