Mobile Stroke Unit

Turning vision into reality, many benefactors help to bring life-saving mobile stroke unit to Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital.

Thanks to the generosity of many donors, Northwestern Medicine Central DuPage Hospital was able to acquire the first Mobile Stroke Unit (MSU) in Illinois and to initiate, in January 2017, the unit’s vital, often life-saving services for people experiencing symptoms of a stroke. The MSU is a state-of-the-art ambulance that contains specialized staff and equipment to facilitate the rapid diagnosis of a stroke on-site, when every moment matters and “time is brain.” In addition to a 16-slice CT scanner that takes detailed images of the brain, the MSU is equipped with a direct telemedicine connection to Central DuPage Hospital, where neurologists can swiftly receive and interpret the results of tests conducted by Emergency Medical Services personnel. At the direction of the reviewing specialists, EMS personnel in the MSU can administer tPA, a blood-clot-busting medication, before the patient even reaches the Emergency Department, saving valuable time to treatment.

“For every minute that the brain is deprived of oxygen, which occurs during an acute stroke, you lose 1.9 million neurons, and your aging process is accelerated by 3.1 weeks,” said Harish Shownkeen, MD, an acclaimed interventional neuroradiologist who serves as medical director of the Stroke and Neurointerventional Surgery Programs at Central DuPage Hospital. “A major stroke destroys about 1.2 billion neurons and accelerates aging by 36 years. By diagnosing stroke patients faster, we are greatly improving the odds that they will suffer minimal to no long-term deficits.”

The goal is to diagnose and treat a stroke within the “Golden Hour,” the first 60 minutes following onset of symptoms, when a patient has the greatest chance of a positive outcome. A recent study, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association, found that less than one percent of patients ultimately treated with tPA in the United States received the medication within the critical “Golden Hour.” By comparison, during its first year of service, Northwestern Medicine’s MSU administered tPA to 27 percent of eligible patients within one hour of symptom onset — a remarkable achievement that underscores both the need for and the effectiveness of the MSU.

“Before the Mobile Stroke Unit, I didn’t think that we could ever bring the hospital to the patient, but with the MSU, we truly are doing that. We are initiating treatment the fastest way we possibly can,”  Dr. Shownkeen remarked. “Our whole MSU team is enormously grateful to all the caring people who made contributions that allowed us to bring this life-saving service to Central DuPage Hospital and to the members of our communities. We want to keep reaching more people and saving more lives. That’s our daily mission.”

Mobile Stroke Unit Data: Mid-January 2017–End of February 2018

Number of Dispatches: 400
Average time of MSU Services:

  • Dispatch to arrival on scene: 10 minutes
  • Scene to CT completed: 20 minutes
  • Dispatch to CT results: 34 minutes
  • Dispatch to administration of tPA: 52 minutes


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