The highly successful Mobile Stroke Unit (MSU) has seen thousands of patients and changed outcomes for Victorians in its first two years.
The purpose-built, 5.3 tonne ambulance has an on board CT scanner capable of imaging the patient’s brain to detect the type of stroke they are experiencing to immediately start assessment and treatment, rather than after they arrived at the hospital.
Since beginning its operation the MSU has assessed 1082 patients with almost half of patient receiving CT scans. CT scans are used to detect a stroke from a blood clot or bleeding within the brain.
This has led to more effective treatment, preventing 51.24 disability adjusted life years (DALYs) and saving the health system more than $100,000 from reduced inter hospital transfers.
The Royal Melbourne Hospital’s Director of the Melbourne Brain Centre, Professor Stephen Davis said patients identified on the MSU as needing additional advanced stroke treatments, such as endovascular clot retrieval or neurosurgery, are transported to specific specialist centres.
“By identifying patients who require advanced care in the pre-hospital setting, the MSU reduces the time to specialist treatment and removes the need for secondary inter-hospital transfers,” Prof Stephen Davis said.
University of Melbourne Professor of Neurology Geoffrey Donnan said while stroke is highly treatable, time is the most critical element of stroke treatment.
“This service has been critical in allowing patients faster access to treatments such as intravenous clot-busting therapy and has been an important step forward in putting Victoria at the forefront of care in Australia,” Prof Donnan said.
About one in six people will suffer a stroke in their lifetime and in 2014, nearly 3,000 Victorians died from a stroke. Victorian hospitals treat more than 14,000 people for stroke and related conditions each year.
The MSU is a research trial led by the Royal Melbourne Hospital, the University of Melbourne and Ambulance Victoria. The ambulance set up was made possible by a generous donations from leading Melbourne business figures, the Stroke Foundation, the Royal Melbourne Hospital Neurosciences Foundation and the Victorian Government.
In its two years of operating its been found that almost 50% of patients are treated within 90 minutes of symptom onset, compared to the average of 150 minutes in hospital.
The MSU had life changing benefits for Warren Wheatley, 56 year-old father who had a stroke when he was getting ready for work.
He was assisted by the MSU and treated at the RMH, he had a severe stroke on the right side of his brain, impacting his speech and contributed to leg weakness. After spending a week in hospital and almost two months in rehab he is now back at work.
The MSU was able to treat Warren straight away, allowing him to get back to work and to his family as quickly as possible.