In-Flight Stroke Care


Working in conjunction with air ambulance services, the Santa Barbara Neuroscience Institute at Cottage Health System has expanded the geographic range for advanced stroke care.


Rapid Response is crucial for effective stroke treatment, as the sudden loss of circulation to the brain brings associated loss of neurologic function. Because fewer than 25 percent of Americans live close enough to a stroke center to reach help within 30 minutes of the onset of stroke symptoms, introducing air ambulance services significantly improves outcomes. In western states, the use of helicopter emergency medical services (EMS) increases the number of patients able to


Sybile Wilkins, EMT-P, of Reach  Air Medical Services. The helicopter is set up as an intensive care unit in the sky, capable of the most complex procedures and their associated care.

reach a stroke center within an hour from 51 to 81 percent.


Working with air transport companies, Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital uses helicopter EMS services to transport patients over great distances quickly, under severe time constraints. The on-board nurses and medical staff have access to advanced emergency response technology.


“We equip our air ambulances with technology usually found in an intensive care unit,” explains Lisa Abeloe, RN, chief flight nurse for CalStar Air Ambulance Service. “Our team includes two critical care registered nurses trained specifically to work in the helicopter setting. These measures help ensure that the patients we transport have the most focused care possible in flight.”

•    Director's Letter
•    In-Flight Stroke Care
•    Brain Metastases
•    Obstructive Sleep Apnea
•    CFIT
•    TBI Monitoring
  Syringomyelia Treatment
  2010 Saving the Brain Symposium

>> Download PDF


Continuum of Care

Response teams on the flight and in emergency services at cottage work together to smooth the transition and ensure the success of each patient transport.


“The protocols we use in the air have all been reviewed and approved by cottage physicians,” says Robert Frick, general manager of Reach Air Medical Services. “Working collaboratively to identify best practices in transport makes the transition from the air to the facility much more seamless—we can complete transitions without missing a beat.”


Cottage is notified as soon as a chopper is in the air, allowing physicians and staff members to mobilize and prepare for the incoming patient. Following evaluation, each step of a patient’s care is analyzed to consider ways to improve and expedite care. 



“It is a great resource for everyone to have such highly skilled air medical transportation available for acute emergencies. In many cases, air transport can cut travel time in half. The teams working in the air are an extension of the neuro critical care services we provide here at Cottage. When time is brain, this can mean the difference between life and death.”


— Alois Zauner, MD,


Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital is the only hospital on the Central Coast to be certified by The Joint Commission as a Primary Stroke Center.