As American Heart Month kicks off in February, Stony Brook Medicine is finalizing plans to provide speedy help to stroke victims in Suffolk County.
“When a blood vessel supplying the brain is blocked, it is estimated that nearly two million brain cells are lost for each minute that passes, making stroke the most time sensitive diagnosis we have in medicine.”
— Dr. David Fiorella
The Stony Brook Cerebrovascular and Comprehensive Stroke Center and the Stony Brook Renaissance School of Medicine’s Department of Emergency Medicine will launch Long Island’s first mobile stroke unit program in March. The program will include specially equipped ambulances that will be strategically based along the length of the Long Island Expressway, taking calls within 10 miles of their bases.
The hope is to ensure response times of 20 minutes or less.
“When a blood vessel supplying the brain is blocked, it is estimated that nearly two million brain cells are lost for each minute that passes, making stroke the most time sensitive diagnosis we have in medicine,” said Dr. David Fiorella, director of the stroke center and professor of neurological surgery and radiology at the Renaissance School of Medicine. “The faster we can restore blood flow to the brain the more likely that the patient will have a full recovery.”
The units will be available seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., which is the window of time when most stroke calls are received.
Eric Niegelberg, associate director of Operations for Emergency Services and Internal Medicine, said an evaluation was completed to choose what time frame the mobile units would be available.
“We evaluated 911 ambulance call volume by area in the county and combined that data with what we felt was a reasonable response distance and time.”
— Eric Niegelberg,
“We looked at actual data for five years and historically the highest percentage of stroke calls come in during that time frame,” he said, adding once the program begins Stony Brook Medicine will continue to evaluate data and modify the hours based upon current call volume.
While the first unit will be deployed at Exit 57 on the LIE sometime between mid-to-late March, the second will not be in use until April and will be set up at Exit 68.
“The locations were chosen based upon call volume,” Niegelberg said. “We evaluated 911 ambulance call volume by area in the county and combined that data with what we felt was a reasonable response distance and time. Based upon this analysis the two locations were chosen. We did want locations that would provide easy North-South and East-West access.”
The units will include an in-ambulance care team, telemedicine system that enables emergency physicians and neurologists to see the patient via audio/visual conferencing, CT scanner for a standard scan and CT scan angiogram, which allows doctors to check for bleeding in the brain immediately.
Robert Simpson, district manager of Medford Volunteer Ambulance, said the mobile stroke units would be valuable to emergency response workers.
“As an EMS provider, we are always looking for ways to enhance treatment to patients,” Simpson said. “I think that it will definitely be an asset to us, especially for patients with strokes. As they say, ‘Saving time, saves the brain.’ Minutes count when someone is having a stroke as far as being able to enhance their chances of survival.”
According to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the United States, killing about 140,000 Americans each year.