Spring 2020

Help is on the way

Minnesota’s first mobile emergency department is hitting the road to help people who have suffered cardiac arrest away from the hospital

People who suffer cardiac arrest—when the heart unexpectedly stops beating—need medical attention fast. Really fast. In fact, it’s among the most time-sensitive emergencies in all of medicine, and if victims aren’t in a hospital’s specialized cardiac catheterization lab within an hour, they probably won’t survive. That’s why nearly 90% of people who experience cardiac arrest today will die.

The University of Minnesota Medical School’s Demetri Yannopoulos, M.D., has an idea to budge that grim statistic in a positive direction: Bring the “hospital” to the person. (Read a Q&A with Yannopoulos.)

With support from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, M Health Fairview and three other Minnesota health care systems have teamed up to create the state’s first mobile emergency department, carrying the experts and advanced tools needed to provide the critical first stages of care for people who have suffered cardiac arrest away from a hospital.

Later this year, the truck will hit the road. Twice as long as a normal ambulance and about two feet longer than a city bus, this mobile emergency department is designed to allow experts to administer specialized care inside the vehicle itself, giving them more time to begin treatment—and giving the patient a much better chance of survival.

Find out how your gift can support this work by contacting Michelle Boe of the University of Minnesota Foundation at 612-625-9903 or maboe@umn.edu.

SUV-sized versions of the mobile emergency department were deployed in December. These vehicles carry specialized equipment and an interventional cardiologist to the nearest participating emergency department to provide lifesaving care for the person in cardiac arrest.

“It’s redefining what emergency care looks like,” says Yannopoulos, who holds the Robert K. Eddy Endowed Chair in Cardiovascular Resuscitation. “If we can reach patients faster, we can save more lives.”

Take a look inside.



Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, is a life-preserving machine pump that temporarily does the work of the heart and lungs. It pumps oxygenated blood throughout the body, giving doctors more time to perform lifesaving interventions.


A cardiac catheterization lab in the hospital is usually staffed by seven care providers. In the truck, those responsibilities fall to three highly trained experts. Two are sanitized to touch the patient, while the third moves equipment, grabs supplies, and runs the ECMO machine.


A large machine usually found only in hospitals, the c-arm X-ray scanner enables doctors to find veins in the patient’s legs, neck, or chest where they can insert thin tubes to connect the ECMO machine.


An interventional cardiologist is on call 24-7 to provide remote expertise. The truck is equipped with high-definition video-streaming capabilities, allowing the cardiologist to see what’s happening inside the vehicle via virtual reality.


Cameras inside the truck broadcast multiple angles of the patient onto a big-screen TV, giving the providers a full view of the procedure without forcing them to move around in a tight space.


Although it’s more “mobile hospital” than a lights-flashing emergency vehicle, the truck is still on wheels, which means everything must be secured in case of a crash. A shoe-rack-inspired storage unit holds miscellaneous medical supplies.