Background: An ambulance equipped with a computed tomography (CT) scanner, point-of-care laboratory, and telemedicine capabilities (Mobile Stroke Unit [MSU]) has been shown to enable delivery of thrombolysis to stroke patients at the emergency site, thereby significantly decreasing time to treatment. However, the MSU frequently assesses patients with cerebral disorders other than stroke. For some of these disorders, prehospital CT scanning may also be beneficial.
Methods: Our institution manages a program investigating prehospital stroke treatment of patients with neurological emergencies. We assessed a patient with head trauma for whom prehospital CT scanning and laboratory tests allowed cause-based triage to the most appropriate hospital. We examined implications of this case for clinical practice in light of a literature review.
Results: The MSU was dispatched to assess a 74-year-old woman with suspected head trauma or stroke, found lying on the floor with a left frontal laceration. Her Glasgow Coma Scale score was 13, apart from drowsiness she exhibited no neurologic deficit. A CT scan ruled out intracranial hemorrhage and skull fracture. On the basis of these prehospital diagnostic findings, the patient was taken to the nearest primary care hospital rather than to a trauma center with neurosurgery facilities.
Conclusion: Patients with neurologic disorders other than stroke, such as traumatic brain injury, may also benefit from prehospital CT studies. This case report and the results of our analysis of the literature support the potential benefit of prehospital imaging in correctly triaging patients with suspected traumatic brain injury to the appropriate target hospital.
- Computed tomography
- head trauma
- traumatic brain injury