WSU nursing faculty member Dr. Wendy Dusenbury has embarked on a new specialty practice. Because of her expertise in the area of stroke management, Dusenbury was invited to join an inaugural group of practitioners at the University of Tennessee to help test a one-of-a-kind mobile stroke unit. The specialized vehicle is the world’s largest mobile stroke unit and contains the most advanced computerized tomography (CT) imaging capabilities ever in a mobile setting.
The hospital-quality CT scanner has angiography imaging that provides crystal clear pictures of the brain and blood vessels. This technology enables the team to diagnose and treat the patient quickly and accurately. Each shift on the unit consists of a highly-trained medical team, including a nurse practitioner, CT technologist, EMT and paramedic.
“I’m excited to be part of this groundbreaking program,” Dusenbury says. “This unit will help impact and save many people’s lives.”
Dusenbury says time is critical when responding to a stroke. A stroke causes the loss of brain neurons and accelerated aging of the brain. The ability to respond to patients quickly reduces the likelihood of permanent brain damage.
The unit can reach and treat patients more quickly than an ambulance transporting patients to and through the emergency room. The unit is able to bypass hospital emergency departments and take patients directly to the next level of treatment. The goal is to administer diagnosis and treatment within the first hour of a patient experiencing stroke symptoms.
“The mobile stroke unit is a huge time saver,” says Dusenbury. “The more quickly we can treat a patient, the more brain cells we can save.”
According to the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association, for every minute after a stroke happens, 1.9 million neurons are lost and 3.1 weeks of aging are added to the brain. For every hour after a stroke occurs, 120 million neurons are lost and 3.6 years of aging are added to the brain.
The mobile stroke unit was chosen to operate in Memphis, where the stroke rate is 37 percent higher than the national average. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), stroke is the fifth leading cause of death in the U.S. and the leading cause of adult disability.
The unit is functioning as a test unit. To track its effectiveness, the unit will operate 12 hours a day, one week on and one week off. The study is expected to help increase similar early treatment programs worldwide for stroke patients.
Dusenbury has previously served on acute stroke response and neurocritical care teams and works to improve stroke treatment in Wichita. She was the co-director of the stroke program at Via Christi Health and helped the facility achieve the Comprehensive Stroke Center certification, recognizing them among the facilities nationally that offer advanced stroke care options for patients. She has also spoken and presented her research locally and nationally at industry conferences.