Partnership expands mobile stroke units reach

Cris Collingwood//May 31, 2023

Members of Topton Ambulance Service and Lehigh Valley Health Network's mobile stroke unit celebrate a partnership to provide stroke care to Topton's coverage area - PHOTO/PROVIDED

Partnership expands mobile stroke units reach

Cris Collingwood//May 31, 2023

Lehigh Valley Health Network’s (LVHN) mobile stroke unit is expanding its area of service. 

Through a partnership with Topton Ambulance Service, Inc., the mobile stroke unit will bring emergency stroke care to the 37-square-mile radius in Berks County the ambulance company serves, bring its total coverage area to more than 400 square miles, LVHN said. 

The mobile stroke unit, part of Lehigh Valley Fleming Neuroscience Institute, was the first mobile stroke unit in Pennsylvania when it debuted in 2019 and LVHN said it is currently one of only 20 such units across the country. 

The unit is based at Cetronia Ambulance in the Allentown area and has been operated in partnership with Cetronia since its inception. 

The new partnership with Topton Ambulance means the stroke unit will respond to stroke calls along with Topton, or rendezvous with Topton crews on their way to a Comprehensive Stroke Center, such as Lehigh Valley Hospital–Cedar Crest, LVHN said. 

In Berks County, Topton Ambulance serves about 4,200 residents in all or portions of Topton and Lyons boroughs and Longswamp, Rockland, Maxatawny and District townships. 

“Having quicker access to world-class stroke care is a great tool for us to have to support the communities we serve,” said Topton Ambulance Chief and Executive Director Michael Richards. “We’re thrilled to be partnering with the stroke unit.” 

The mobile stroke unit does not operate everywhere within the LVHN footprint. However, in addition to Topton, it has agreements with and assists on stroke calls with Northern Valley, Cetronia, Macungie and Boyertown ambulance companies. 

Ken Reichenbach, mobile stroke unit program director, said the unit is essentially a neurological emergency room on wheels. 

The stroke unit is equipped with a camera that doctors at LVHN stroke centers can operate to evaluate what’s happening and direct initial treatment, Reichenbach said. Mobile stroke unit crews could be directed to start clot-busting medication or blood-thickening medication, depending on the type of stroke. 

Doctors have direct communication with the stroke unit crew, which also can perform a computed tomography scan so doctors can get a view of what’s happening inside the patient’s brain, LVHN said. Communication with doctors also provides information on which type of stroke center is best for the patient under the circumstances.  

Someone has a stroke every 40 seconds in the United States, and LVHN said they are the fifth-leading cause of death in the country.  

 “The faster a stroke patient gets treatment, the better the outcome,” Reichenbach said. “That’s why time is brain and why these partnerships are so beneficial.”