Introduction: The Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit (MSTU) is a novel onsite pre-hospital treatment team with all basic infra-structure to diagnose, emergently treat and hence timely triage acute ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke patients to either the primary stroke center (PSCs) or comprehensive stroke centers (CSCs). Recent evidence supports outcome benefits in favor of intra-arterial therapy (IAT) in large vessel strokes and transfers to neuro-critical care units for managing large strokes. This has resulted in a surge in transfers to CSCs summing additional transfer costs for patients not initially presenting to a CSC. This is the first ever study in the United States that utilizes a basic cost generation model to measure the economic benefits of MSTU triage directly to the CSCs by-passing PSCs, for the those patients requiring higher-level care.
Method: Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit database was used to identify patients that stroke neurologists triaged to CSCs. These included all acute ICH, IAT candidates and severe strokes with ICU needs. We calculated the average costs of a typical primary stroke center emergency room visit and the cost of a critical care transport, generating a cost savings model.
Result: Fifty two patients who were evaluated by stroke neurologists in the mobile stroke unit from July 2014 to October 2015 were adjudged candidates for comprehensive stroke centers. Twenty four (46%) of these were intra-cerebral hemorrhage (ICH) confirmed on portable head CT while the other 28 (54%) presented with major strokes with possible IA thrombectomy candidacy or anticipated Neuro ICU needs due to stroke severity. Eleven ICH and 13 ischemic stroke patients (46%) of the 52 patients by-passed PSC to be taken directly to comprehensive stroke centers with a potential of saving millions of dollars in costs and critical time.
Conclusion: Even in a city with dense presence of comprehensive stroke centers, a large cohort of patients by-passed primary stroke centers with a potential of saving millions of dollars in costs and critical time. Future goals include evaluating for difference in outcome in this group of patients that by-passed PSC courtesy MSTU. Additionally, this needs to be replicated in other counties and cities before policy changes are proposed.