Importance: So far, uncertainty remains as to whether there is sufficient cumulative evidence that mobile stroke unit (MSU; specialized ambulance equipped with computed tomography scanner, point-of-care laboratory, and neurological expertise) use leads to better functional outcomes compared with usual care.
Objective: To determine with a systematic review and meta-analysis of the literature whether MSU use is associated with better functional outcomes in patients with acute ischemic stroke (AIS).
Data sources: MEDLINE, Cochrane Library, and Embase from 1960 to 2021.
Study selection: Studies comparing MSU deployment and usual care for patients with suspected stroke were eligible for analysis, excluding case series and case-control studies.
Data extraction and synthesis: Independent data extraction by 2 observers, following the PRISMA and MOOSE reporting guidelines. The risk of bias in each study was determined using the ROBINS-I and RoB2 tools. In the case of articles with partially overlapping study populations, unpublished disentangled results were obtained. Data were pooled in random-effects meta-analyses.
Main outcomes and measures: The primary outcome was excellent outcome as measured with the modified Rankin Scale (mRS; score of 0 to 1 at 90 days).
Results: Compared with usual care, MSU use was associated with excellent outcome (adjusted odds ratio [OR], 1.64; 95% CI, 1.27-2.13; P < .001; 5 studies; n = 3228), reduced disability over the full range of the mRS (adjusted common OR, 1.39; 95% CI, 1.14-1.70; P = .001; 3 studies; n = 1563), good outcome (mRS score of 0 to 2: crude OR, 1.25; 95% CI, 1.09-1.44; P = .001; 6 studies; n = 3266), shorter onset-to-intravenous thrombolysis (IVT) times (median reduction, 31 minutes [95% CI, 23-39]; P < .001; 13 studies; n = 3322), delivery of IVT (crude OR, 1.83; 95% CI, 1.58-2.12; P < .001; 7 studies; n = 4790), and IVT within 60 minutes of symptom onset (crude OR, 7.71; 95% CI, 4.17-14.25; P < .001; 8 studies; n = 3351). MSU use was not associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality at 7 days or at 90 days or with higher proportions of symptomatic intracranial hemorrhage after IVT.
Conclusions and relevance: Compared with usual care, MSU use was associated with an approximately 65% increase in the odds of excellent outcome and a 30-minute reduction in onset-to-IVT times, without safety concerns. These results should help guideline writing committees and policy makers.