UTHSC Mobile Stroke Unit Receives First-of-its-Kind Accreditation

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The UTHSC Mobile Stroke Unit received a prestigious accreditation Tuesday from the Intersocietal Accreditation Commission. Dr. Andrei Alexandrov, medical director of the Mobile Stroke Unit, receives a certificate from Mary Lally, CEO of the commission. Nancy Merrill, CT-director of accreditation for the organization, is at center. (Photos by Natalie Brewer/UTHSC)

The University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s Mobile Stroke Unit today received the first-of-its kind accreditation from the Intersocietal Accreditation Commission (IAC) for ensuring patient safety, radiation safety, a commitment to quality, and dedication to continuous improvement.

The prestigious three-year accreditation is in the areas of neurological CT (computed tomography)/Acute Stroke and vascular CTA (computed tomography angiography), both diagnostic imaging tools used on the unit to determine stroke treatment. It is the first time the IAC has awarded this accreditation to a mobile CT unit, bestowing the designation only after the UTHSC Mobile Stroke Unit underwent an intensive application and review process.

Launched in 2016, the UTHSC Mobile Stroke Unit is a 14-ton stroke emergency room on wheels with hospital-grade CT equipment. It is designed so diagnosis and treatment can begin in the field, instead of being delayed until arrival at the hospital.

Because 1.9 million neurons are lost each minute stroke is untreated, time is of the essence when it comes to successful outcomes. The unit is designed to reduce time to treatment and improve odds of recovery from stroke, which is the fifth leading cause of death and the Number 1 cause of permanent disability in adults in the United States.

Mary Lally, MS, CAE, chief executive officer for the IAC, and Nancy Merrill, BS, RT (R)(M)(CT), CT-director of accreditation for the IAC, were on campus today for a ceremony to mark the milestone for the Mobile Stroke Unit.

“By being the first accredited mobile CT unit in the country, in fact in the world, you have set the bar for stroke innovation for others to follow,” Lally said, addressing a group gathered in the lobby of the UTHSC Center for Healthcare Improvement and Patient Simulation, where the ceremony was held. “Because of your innovation and your efforts, lives will be saved.”

The IAC accreditation is “a seal of approval” and an indicator of quality care, according to the organization.

“This is a very, very proud moment in the history of the University of Tennessee Health Science Center,” said Ken Brown, UTHSC’s executive vice chancellor and chief operations officer. “The job that Dr. Alexandrov and his team have done has been nothing short of remarkable. Our partner Methodist Healthcare is a different institution, we are a different organization as a result of this level of care being brought to this community.” Methodist University Hospital, one of UTHSC’s clinical partner hospitals, is home to a Comprehensive Stroke Center, where stroke patients are often transported by the Mobile Stroke Unit.

Inside the Mobile Stroke Unit, the IAC representatives were able to see the hospital-quality CT scanner that is used for diagnosis.

Andrei Alexandrov, MD, medical director of the Mobile Stroke Unit and chair of the Department of Neurology at UTHSC, praised the stroke unit team for its efforts. Since its launch, the unit has been called to respond to possible strokes on average of four to five times a day when it is in service. The unit is housed at a fire station at 980 E. McLemore and is connected to emergency medical services for dispatch in the Memphis area.

Dr. Alexandrov said it takes about 3 1/2 minutes to complete a CT scan on the Mobile Stroke Unit. “From the moment the Mobile Stroke Unit arrives at the scene to the moment we have a definitive diagnosis, having looked at the brain but also looked at the blood vessels and we know what type of stroke we’re dealing with and what kind of facility we need to go to with this patient, it only takes 7 minutes,” he said. By comparison, he said, paramedics in Tennessee are given 10 minutes to assess patients with chest pain. “So we’re beating the 10 minutes for heart attack.” Depending on the type of stroke diagnosed, treatment with clot-busting tPA, tissue plasminogen activator, can begin on the Mobile Stroke Unit before arrival at the hospital.

“The reason this is so important is it tells the public that when we pull up to take care of you right in front of your house, you’re receiving the highest quality of CT imaging that’s available,” said Anne Alexandrov, PhD, RN, CCRN, ANVP-BC, NVRN-BC, FAAN, Mobile Stroke Unit chief nurse practitioner and professor in the UTHSC College of Nursing.

The IAC provides accreditation for programs including vascular testing, echocardiography, MRI, CT, carotid stenting, vein treatment, cardiac electrophysiology and cardiovascular catheterization. The IAC has granted accreditation to more than 14,000 sites throughout the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico.

The Mobile Stroke Unit team is shown with the IAC representatives and Dr. Ken Brown, UTHSC’s executive vice chancellor and chief operations officer, who opened the ceremony (back row, third from left).