Rochester, N.Y. (WHAM) - After actor Luke Perry died of a stroke last week, there has been an increased interest in learning about and preventing strokes.
Six months after UR Medicine launched the first mobile stroke unit in New York outside of New York City, patients are being treated within minutes, instead of hours.
The first steps to take for any potential stroke patient are to undergo a brain scan and then be given a life-saving drug called TPA.
The national standard response time for those steps to be administered is just under 60 minutes. With UR Medicine, they averaged about 50 minutes.
But when the Mobile Stroke Unit was brought in, UR Medicine cut its response time down to nine minutes. That is among the fastest in the nation.
"This is progress, but I think we can do better," said Dr. Tarun Bhalla, director of the Stroke and Cerebrovascular Services at UR Medicine. “I think the full potential of this unit has yet to realized. We’re still in the pilot phase and we’re gonna continue to push the envelope.”
Dr. Bhalla said the ambulance is also sparking discussion about recognizing the signs and symptoms of a stroke. Strokes are commonly referred to as "brain attacks" caused by a blocked or burst blood vessel.
"Learn to recognize the signs of a stroke," Dr. Bhalla said "If you see someone with weakness in their face or arm or has speech difficulty, realize that time is of the essence and you need to call 911 immediately to get to your local emergency room.”
The UR Mobile Stroke Unit is an emergency room on wheels. A specialized crew on board performs CT scans, blood tests, and adminsters life-saving medicines before arriving at the hospital.
Time saved means fewer dead brain cells - and that can mean a world of difference to stroke patients.
"Stroke winds up being such a longitudnal disease," Dr. Bhalla said. "It really is a journey for that family member, that lasts hours, days, weeks, months, years. We firmly believe that the more of a difference you can make up front for stroke, just like we're trying to do with our mobile stroke unit and everything we do inside the hospital, the shorter that journey is for that patient and family member."
That journey begins with a quick response - from the only unit of its kind in upstate New York.
Currently, the UR Medicine Mobile Stroke Unit is in a pilot phase and is serving the City of Rochester. Expansion plans are in the works to move that service area out to the suburbs and areas beyond Monroe County.