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AURORA, Colo. – When it comes to strokes, doctors agree that the faster you can get to the hospital, the better your chances are of recovering. UCHealth is helping to speed up the process.

The hospital system has what is called a Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit. It is basically a “souped-up” ambulance complete with a mini-CT scanner and video conferencing technology that allows the neurologist back at the hospital to begin seeing and treating the patient before the ambulance arrives back at the hospital.

“Everybody is recognizing how important it is to treat patients quickly and so most places are getting faster and faster. Things like the Mobile Stroke Unit are helping us do that,” Dr. William Jones, Medical Director of the Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit at UCHealth told FOX31.

According to Dr. Jones, the stroke unit in UCHealth’s system is one of only about twenty worldwide.

“With stroke, time is brain,” he said. “So the quicker that we can treat a patient with tPA, also commonly referred to as a ‘clot-busting’ medication, the more likely they are to have benefits.”

It is estimated that 1.9 million brain cells are lost for every minute a stroke goes untreated. According to Dr. Jones, a stroke patient needs to be given the clot-busting medication within four and a half hours of the stroke or it may be too late to use. The window can be stretched by using a catheter to internally break up a clot.

“Our ambulance arrives on scene, can evaluate and treat the patient on scene before they are even at the hospital,” Dr. Jones said.

While UCHealth is making major strides in treating strokes, the best medicine is still prevention.

“Living a healthy lifestyle, maintaining activity, things like that will help prevent strokes,” Dr. Jones said.

The simple acronym “BE FAST” is used to help identify symptoms of stroke:

B – Balance: A sudden loss of balance or coordination

E – Eyes: A sudden change in vision, such as blindness or double vision

F – Face: One side of the face is drooping or numb

A – Arms: One arm is weak or numb

S – Speech: You may notice slurred speech or difficulty speaking

T – Time: Call 911 immediately. Do not wait, even if the symptoms go away.