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Early stroke care in Italy—a steep way ahead: an observational study
  1. G Citerio1,
  2. D Galli1,
  3. A Pesenti2
  1. 1Anesthesiologist and Intensivist, NeuroIntensive Care Unit, Department of Perioperative and Intensive Care, Ospedale San Gerardo, Monza, Italy
  2. 2Università Milano Bicocca Giuseppe Citerio, Dipartimento di Medicina Perioperatoria e Terapie Intensive, Nuovo Ospedale San Gerardo, Monza, Italy
  1. Correspondence to:
 Giuseppe Citerio
 Dipartimento di Medicina Perioperatoria e Terapie Intensive, Nuovo Ospedale San Gerardo, via Pergolesi, 33, 20052 Monza (MI) Italy; g.citerio{at}


Objectives: To measure the performance of selected Italian emergency medical system (EMS) dispatch centres managing calls for patients suffering from stroke. Data on outcome and on early treatment in the ED were collected.

Methods: Prospective data collection for a trimester from interventions for a suspected stroke in 13 EMS dispatch centres over five Italian regions.

Results: Altogether, 1041 calls for a suspected stroke were analysed. Mean intervals of the sequential phases were 2.3±2 minutes between call and ambulance dispatch, 8.4±5.5 minutes to reach the patient, 14.5±8.5 minutes on the scene, and 40.2±16.2 minutes between call and arrival at the ED. Interventions were performed in 56% of cases by a basic life support (BLS) crew, advanced life support (ALS) crews intervened in 28% of cases, and a combination of ALS and BLS in the remaining 16%. Mean diagnostic interval was 99±85 minutes between emergency system call and the first CT scan. This was performed 71±27 minutes after ED admission. Only 1.6% were admitted to a stroke unit. One month outcome according to GCS was good recovery in 32%, moderate disability in 28%, severe disability in 14%, and death in 25% of the patients.

Conclusions: Mean times show a rapid response of the selected EMS dispatch centres to calls for a suspected stroke. Nevertheless, mean times of the ED phase are still unacceptable according to international guidelines such as Brain Attack Coalition and American Stroke Association guidelines. Efforts should be spent to reduce the time between the arrival and the CT scan and more patients should be admitted to a stroke unit.

  • ALS, advanced life support
  • ASA, American Stroke Association
  • BAC, Brain Attack Coalition
  • BLS, basic life support
  • CT, computed tomography
  • ED, emergency department
  • EMS, emergency medical system
  • FAST, Face Arm Speech Test
  • GOS, Glasgow Outcome Scale
  • r-tPA, recombinant tissue plasminogen activator
  • SD, standard deviation
  • SPREAD, Stroke PREvention and Awareness Diffusion
  • emergency medicine
  • prehospital
  • stroke

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  • Funding: This research was funded by the National Minister of Health and by Direzione Generale Sanità-Regione Lombardia.

  • Competing interests: none declared.