Stroke Ambulance makes major inroads

August 10, 2018
The nation and the world is watching on as the latest innovation in emergency stroke treatment navigates its way to halving patient treatment time-lines. 

Australia’s first Mobile Stroke Unit (MSU), more commonly known as the Stroke Ambulance, is proving to be one of the most talked about topics at Stroke: 2018 Bridging the Continuum – Australasia’s leading conference for health professionals and researchers working in stroke.

The research pilot began operation in November last year and has been called out to almost 400 stroke patients. The Mobile Stroke Unit, based at the Royal Melbourne Hospital, operates effectively as an emergency department on wheels, bringing diagnosis and time critical stroke treatment to the patient.

Neurologist Dr Henry Zhao reported on the project’s progress, saying there was significant and understandable excitement around the MSU’s early operational experience. 

“We have halved door to treatment times for patients saving time and precious brain,’’ Dr Zhao said.

“With stroke every minute counts. Up to 1.9 million brain cells die each minute, and with the right treatment at the right time many people are able to make a good recovery.”

Early results show door to treatment time with clot busting drugs (thrombolysis) has been reduced to 34 minutes, in comparison the average door to clot busting treatment time nationally of 72 minutes. Access to clot removal treatment, for those clots too big to be dissolved, has been reduced to just 28 minutes. At the best hospitals in Australia, this treatment is being delivered within 58 minutes.

Dr Zhao said the project’s future research would focus on the impact of pre-hospital treatment on patient outcomes.  

Stroke Society of Australasia (SSA) President Professor Helen Dewey said while these results were early, they were extraordinary and highlighted the amazing work being led by Australian clinicians and researchers.

“Stroke is no longer a death sentence for many, advancements in stroke treatment over the last two decades have made huge inroads into combatting this disease,’’ Ms Dewey said.

“We are fortunate to have some of the brightest minds in the field of stroke in this country. We must support and encourage them to develop the next game-changer in stroke treatment and care.”

The MSU has been delivered by the Victorian Government in partnership with the Stroke Foundation, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Ambulance Victoria, the University of Melbourne, The Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health and the RMH Neuroscience Foundation. It has also been endorsed by the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Staffed by a neurologist, nurse, radiographer and two paramedics, the MSU has a brain scanner on board allowing on-scene imaging, which speeds up treatment and triage. It is hoped, the results and learnings from the Melbourne MSU will lead to further research and the roll-out of stroke ambulances in other areas of Australia and nationally. 

Stroke 2018:Bridging the Continuum 
International Convention Centre Sydney, August 7-10. 
Stroke 2018: Bridging the continuum is hosted by Stroke Society of Australasia (SSA) and Smart Strokes. It is the combined SSA’s 28th Annual Scientific Meeting and the 14th Smart Strokes Australasian Nursing and Allied Health Stroke Conference. 
It brings together almost 900 of the country’s top minds in the field of stroke and showcases the latest innovations in stroke prevention, treatment, recovery and research.  
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