Capital Health has launched new mobile stroke unit (MSU) designed to bring time-critical stroke care to patients at their home, or wherever the MSU is dispatched to assess them.

It is the first unit of its kind in New Jersey, Pennsylvania or the Delaware Valley to go live and only the second on the east coast. The Capital Health MSU is one of only seven in the United States to be in service and will go live January 30.

"The Mobile Stroke Unit is the most advanced approach to stroke care in the United States. Initially trialed in Germany, the approach has been shown to be effective at delivering time critical stroke treatment to patients safely and quickly," said Dr. Michael F. Stiefel, director of the Capital Institute for Neurosciences and the Stroke and Cerebrovascular Center at Capital Health.

"Stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. and a leading cause of adult disability. When you're dealing with a disease where every minute matters, decreasing time to diagnosis and treatment is critical for a person's outcome.

“Capital Health has consistently been at the forefront of advancing stroke care and neurosciences not only in the region but nationally as well."

The MSU includes a CT scanner, point-of-care laboratory testing, and a team comprised of a critical care nurse, paramedic and CT technologist. Funding for the unit is made possible through a $2 million grant Capital Health received from the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation to acquire the Mobile Stroke Unit and help maintain the hospital's emergency vehicle fleet.  

"Capital Health has a long history of providing high level care to the region's most vulnerable populations. Stroke is a high acuity, time sensitive illness, and we are excited to help Capital Health bring this innovative approach to the Mercer County area," said John Damonti, president of the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation.

"Capital Health's commitment to the residents of our community includes always looking for ways to advance the care available to them," said Al Maghazehe, president and CEO of Capital Health.

The new unit will be co-dispatched with basic and advanced life support services when a 911 call is received for symptoms that suggest a patient is having a stroke. For its launch, it will operate 7 days a week, from 7 am to 11 pm, which is when more than 90 percent of stroke dispatches occur.  The MSU will be phased into the entire Mercer County area.

Once on scene, the unit and its specialized team will conduct critical assessments, perform a CT scan, and work with stroke specialists, neuroradiologists, and emergency room physicians at Capital Health to diagnose and treat patients having an acute ischemic stroke.

Images from the unit's CT scanner are wirelessly transmitted to Capital Health where a neuroradiologist will evaluate them for signs of a stroke and the type of stroke; ischemic (caused by a blood clot) or hemorrhagic (caused by a ruptured blood vessel).

At the same time, a neurologist or cerebrovascular/stroke neurosurgeon will be assessing the patient with the most advanced video and telemedicine systems.   

If it is found that the patient is experiencing an acute ischemic stroke – which account for about 87 percent of all strokes – the on-board medical team can initiate intravenous (IV) tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) to help break up the clot.  tPA is the recommended treatment by the American Heart and Stroke Association for acute ischemic stroke.

Patients are then transported to the hospital for additional care. Capital Health is working with all of the other area hospitals through a consortium to collaborate on the MSU.

Capital Health Regional Medical Center in Trenton is the only Comprehensive Stroke Center in the region certified by The Joint Commission, one of only six hospitals in New Jersey.  

The center, part of Capital Health's Capital Institute for Neurosciences, is available for patients who require the most advanced treatments for neurovascular and stroke care including neuroendovascular, neurosurgical and stroke services.