Background and aims: Early treatment is critical for successful intervention in acute stroke. The aim of this study was to describe delays in presentation to hospital and in the emergency department (ED) management of patients with acute stroke and to identify factors influencing these delays in an Italian urban hospital.
Methods: The present series includes all patients presenting with acute stroke, in whom arrival delay was ascertainable. To describe delays into the ED, the triage–visit delay, visit–computed tomography (CT) delay and visit–CT report delay were registered. Type of stroke, severity of stroke assessed using the modified National Institute of Health Stroke Scale (mNIHSS) scale, level of consciousness, history of previous stroke or previous hospital admission, use of the emergency medical service (EMS), onset of stroke during day or night and admission during working or non-working day were registered for every patient. Univariate and multivariate analysis were performed to evaluate factors influencing early arrival.
Results: Over a one-year period 537 patients with acute stroke were evaluated; 375 patients in whom arrival delay was ascertainable were included in the study. Median arrival delay was 5.4 h (interquartile range (IQR) 2.7–11.6); 104 patients (28%) arrived within 3 h and 198 (53%) within 6 h. Triage–visit delay was 0.3 h (IQR 0.2–0.7), visit–CT scan delay was 1.2 h (IQR 0.8–1.9), visit–CT report delay was 2.7 h (IQR 1.7–4.5). Triage–visit delay and visit–CT delay were shorter for patients presenting within 3 h. The type of stroke was ischaemic in 240 (64%), haemorrhagic in 61 (16%) and transient ischaemic attack in 74 (20%). The median basal mNIHSS score was 5 (IQR 3–10); 64 patients (17%) had an altered level of consciousness, 103 (27%) had had a previous stroke, 223 (59%) had had a previous hospital admittance. In this series 214 patients (57%) arrived with the EMS, 323 (86%) presented with symptoms during the day, 261 (70%) were admitted during working days. Univariate analysis showed a significantly shorter arrival delay in patients calling the EMS (median 4.2 vs 7.2 h; p<0.001) and in patients with a higher basal mNIHSS score (Spearman ρ = −0.204; p<0.001) or altered level of consciousness (normal 5.8 h, not alert but arousable 3.8, not alert but arousable with strong stimulation 2.5, totally unresponsive 6.0; p = 0.005). Multivariate analysis showed that use of the EMS and higher basal mNIHSS score were independent variables associated with a shorter arrival delay.
Conclusion: A substantial proportion of patients does not arrive at the ED in a suitable time for reperfusion therapy. Patients using the EMS have a shorter arrival delay. Approximately half of the patients with stroke are sufficiently aware of the urgency of this clinical condition to activate the emergency telephone system.
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Competing interests: None declared.