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The Rush University Medical Center stroke program is one of the few in the country to offer a mobile stroke treatment unit as a part of its emergency medical services. This year Rush will join Excellence Inc. at the International Stroke Conference 2017 where the RUSH mobile stroke treatment unit will make its debut. On display will be the unit’s state-of-the-art features, including the ability to diagnose patients for a stroke on-site with an onboard CT scanner.

Rush University Medical Center’s stroke program was one of the first in Chicago to receive comprehensive certification from the Joint Commission. As the number one emergency neuro-transfer program in Chicago, the amount and variety of strokes treated by Rush providers have made the program #1 in the Chicago market and #11 nationally. To learn more about Rush’s initiative, we spoke with neurologist Dr. James Conners about the program and how Mobile Stroke Treatment Units are changing the world of healthcare.

Excellance: How many patients on average do you treat at the Rush Stroke Center and which of these patients are at the most risk for having a stroke?

Dr. Conners: We treat over 1000 stroke patients a year at Rush. The patients at highest risk are those with vascular risk factors including high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smoking, sedentary lifestyle and heart disease. That said, anyone could have a stroke and therefore, everyone should be aware of the signs and symptoms of a stroke and what to do if one is suspected.

Excellance: What would you say are the best ways to prevent a stroke?

Dr. Conners: The best way to prevent a stroke is to know what your individual risk factors are and get them under control. These typically include things like hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, smoking and a sedentary lifestyle. For many patients, though, a stroke can be due to unforeseen causes in otherwise healthy individuals. This is also why it is so important to be aware of any signs and symptoms of a stroke and to call 911 if you experience any of those. With rapid treatment we work to minimize the effects of a stroke.

Excellance: When did Rush University first consider adding a Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit to their program? Can you tell us about that process and what the major reasons were for adding a MSTU to the program?

Dr. Conners: We have enthusiastically followed the development of mobile stroke treatment units starting in Europe for many years. But we were not able to truly consider our own program until we received a generous grant from the Grainger Foundation. As a comprehensive stroke center and a leader in stroke care, we felt the need to be one of the pioneers and help develop this new paradigm in stroke management for our community.

Excellance: What is the end goal for using a Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit at Rush?

Dr. Conners: With our mobile stroke treatment unit, we will be using the most advanced technology available to increase the odds that our patients will have a good outcome after suffering a stroke. We will be able to see our patients as fast as possible after their symptom onset, treat them and start them on the road to recovery. The faster that we can accomplish that, the more likely it is that they will walk out of the hospital and make it home with little to no disability.

Excellance: How well do you think the market will grow to accept Mobile Stroke Treatment Units? Do you think they are here to stay?

Dr. Conners: Mobile stroke treatment units have proven effective in reducing onset to treatment times, which translates to better outcomes. As we continue to build our stroke systems of care, I believe mobile stroke treatment units will play an increasingly significant role in both early treatment, as well as the most appropriate triage of patients to get them to the care they need.

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