Stony Brook Medicine is getting set to deploy Long Island’s first mobile stroke units to treat area stroke victims as quickly as possible.

The first of the specially equipped ambulances will hit the streets March 1, with a second to follow in April.

“When a blood vessel supplying the brain is blocked, it is estimated that nearly 2 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 Stony Brook Cerebrovascular 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.”

They trucks will be available seven days a week, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., which, according to university officials, is the window of time when most stroke calls are received.

They will be strategically placed at exits 57 and 68 of the Long Island Expressway, and will take calls within 10 miles of their base, “which should ensure response times of 20 minutes or less,” according to the announcement issued Wednesday.

Each unit is essentially a “mobile stroke emergency room,” which includes an in-ambulance care team consisting of a critical care nurse, paramedic, EMT and a CAT scan technologist. The units have a telemedicine system that enables Stony Brook emergency physicians and neurologists to see and examine the patient via audio/visual conferencing. 

The ambulance is also equipped with a CT scanner that can perform both a standard head CT scan as well as a CT scan angiogram, the announcement reads.

These scans will allow doctors to immediately check for bleeding in the brain and determine whether the patient has a blocked or leaking blood vessel. This information will allow the team to initiate treatment with IV tPA (when indicated) and then transport the patient to the nearest hospital that can provide them with the appropriate level of care.

“This is cutting edge medicine,” said Dr. Kenneth Kaushansky, Senior Vice President for Health Sciences and Dean of the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University. “New, effective medications and interventional therapies have made treating patients with acute stroke quite successful, but these treatments are only effective if given very soon after the stroke begins, and only if given to patients with the right type of stroke.

“The Mobile Stroke Unit will greatly improve the chances of a good outcome for stroke patients in Suffolk County by identifying the type of stroke and allowing the immediate administration of the appropriate medications.”

Photo: Dr. David Fiorella and Eric Niegelberg (courtesy)