Since January 2016, Mercy Health has been delivering specialized stroke care directly to area patients, saving valuable time and more quickly administering lifesaving treatments. 

Results of a national clinical trial recently presented at the American Heart Association International Stroke Conference in March 2021 demonstrated that Mobile Stroke Units (MSU) have been proven to help patients suffering from strokes recover better with reduced disability at 90 days. As the health care organization that was the fourth in the nation to launch an MSU and the only one in the region to invest in one, Mercy Health is pleased to see clinical evidence that these specialized emergency departments on wheels significantly help our local patients.

Specifically, the results of the study concluded that for every 100 patients treated by an MSU team rather than standard care at the hospital: 

  • 27 will have less disability
  • 11 more will be disability free

“This research is a testament to our ministry’s commitment to providing excellent care with cutting edge technology to our communities,” said Dr. Sam Zaidat, neuroendovascular surgeon and director of the Mercy Health Neuroscience Institute. “The study is conclusive that outcomes of stroke patients who were treated with intravenous tPA (clot busting medication) on board the MSU were better than those patients waiting to receive the bolus and drip in the ED.”

Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the nation and remains a major contributor to long-term disability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain becomes blocked and cells become oxygen deprived and start to die. Treatment to quickly restore blood flow to the brain is essential to improve outcomes and survival.

Intravenous injection of recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (better known as tPA) is the gold standard treatment for ischemic stroke. An injection of tPA is usually given through a vein in the arm within the first three hours. In a subset of patients, tPA can be administered up to 4.5 hours after stroke symptoms are recognized. Research gained through the clinical trial shows a better clinical outcome and more benefit when tPA is given sooner on the MSU versus bringing the patient to the emergency room.

Mobile Stroke Units are specialized ambulances equipped with a CT scanner and a specialized team to diagnose strokes and start immediate treatment. With strokes, seconds matter. The quicker stroke care and IV tPA is delivered, the better the potential short- and long-term outcomes. 

Dr. Eugene Lin, neuroendovascular surgeon and stroke medical director of the MSU, noted that the MSU has evaluated more than 1,200 of patients having neurological symptoms in northwest Ohio over the past five years. He said those patients identified as having an ischemic stroke received immediate IV tpa and emergent transportation to the hospital for further treatments including clot removal. The recently announced long-term research has highlighted the importance of such a specialized treatment for strokes, Dr. Lin added.

“The study also shows the benefits that quickly administering IV tPa in the golden hour on the MSU significantly increases the chance that patient has a meaningful recovery,” he said. "It has been tremendous that we have been able to provide this level of service and care to patients in our area over the past several years.” 

The cause of a stroke depends on what type of stroke it is. If it is an ischemic stroke, it is caused by a blocked blood vessel to the brain. If it is a hemorrhagic stroke, it is caused by bleeding in the brain. 

The American Heart Association uses the letter’s FAST to raise awareness of the symptoms of a stroke:

F — Face dropping
A — Arm weakness
S — Speech problems
T — Time to call 911

Other symptoms of a stroke include:

  • Confusion
  • Numbness, paralysis or weakness on one side of the body
  • Dizziness
  • Issues with coordination
  • Headache
  • Difficulty seeing