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Barrow and Phoenix Fire announce partnership revolutionizing stroke treatment

June 17, 2017

Barrow Emergency Stroke Treatment Unit will Provide Faster Treatment to Stroke Victims

Barrow Neurological Institute and the Phoenix Fire Department today announced a new partnership that will revolutionize the way many stroke victims in Phoenix receive medical treatment. The collaboration is expected to dramatically speed the process in which strokes are diagnosed and treated, greatly reducing death and long-term disability in stroke victims.

The program centers around a state-of-the-art mobile emergency room focused on treating stroke victims.  The Barrow Emergency Stroke Treatment Unit, which looks like a large emergency service vehicle, is owned and operated by Barrow. The mobile stroke unit is currently one of 10 in the nation and is the first in the United States to operate around the clock in a city with a population greater than 1 million.

The Barrow Emergency Stroke Treatment Unit brings stroke care curbside via a specially equipped and staffed ambulance

“Because we know that fast treatment can greatly reduce the effects of stroke, we’ve adopted this new method to change the way stroke victims are treated,” says Michael Waters, MD, PhD, director of the stroke program at Barrow Neurological Institute. “By deploying a mobile emergency room that includes the latest technology and medical expertise, we will be able to treat stroke patients much quicker than traditional methods. This enables us to take the next step in providing our community with the most advanced stroke care.”

The cost of the mobile unit was $1-million and was funded by philanthropy, including gifts from the Thunderbirds Charities, the Board of Visitors and Barrow Beyond and other individual donors. The stroke research that will be conducted by Dr. Waters and his team at Barrow will be funded in part by the Women’s Board of Barrow Neurological Foundation.

Phoenix Fire Chief Kara Kalkbrenner says this represents an important step in the collaboration between emergency responders and the medical community.

“This is one additional way emergency response systems and the medical community are working together to continue to provide the most advanced care and support to Phoenix residents,” says Kara Kalkbrenner, Phoenix Fire Chief. “Barrow and Phoenix Fire both have unique positions and skill sets and this partnership is bringing those traits together to improve the health and well-being of our community.”

Current national stroke treatment statistics are staggering. While the probability of a stroke victim having a good outcome is reduced 10 percent every 30 minutes until blood flow to the brain is re-established, currently less than 6 percent of individuals receive the necessary treatment needed within the 4.5 hour recommended timeframe after symptoms begin. Less than one percent of stroke patients receive treatment within one hour.

“These statistics are very frustrating for the medical community,” says Dr. Waters. “With the addition of the mobile stroke unit along with the great support from the Phoenix Fire Department and the City of Phoenix, we will be able to help combat these statistics and effectively improve stroke outcomes in our community.”

The Barrow Emergency Stroke Treatment Unit will be deployed along with Phoenix Fire through the 911 system in instances where there is a possible stroke diagnosis. The unit is equipped with the most advanced diagnostic tools to determine what type of stroke the patient is experiencing so that faster diagnosis and treatment can be made. It also includes live telemedicine capabilities to connect with a Barrow stroke physician. A stroke-certified RN and a CT technician from Barrow will always be on board.

“We’ve designed the mobile unit in a way that enables the medical team to evaluate, diagnose and start treatment on the patient before the patient arrives at the hospital,” says Dr. Waters.

The Barrow Emergency Stroke Treatment Unit will be housed at Barrow, which is part of Dignity Health St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center. With a response radius of 20 minutes, the unit will be able to reach the curbside of about half the stroke patients in the greater Phoenix area. The Barrow Emergency Stroke Treatment Unit, which was approved by Phoenix City Council last month, is expected to begin operating in July.