Objective: To identify weak links in the early chain of care for acute stroke.
Setting: Nine emergency hospitals in western Sweden, each with a stroke unit, and the emergency medical services (EMS).
Participants: All patients hospitalised with a first and a final diagnosis of stroke − between December 15, 2010 and April 15, 2011. The university hospital in the city of Gothenburg was compared with six county hospitals.
Primary and secondary measures: (1) The system delay, i.e. median delay time from call to the EMS until diagnosis was designated as the primary endpoint. Secondary endpoints were: (2) the system delay time from call to the EMS until arrival in a hospital ward, (3) the use of the EMS, (4) priority at the dispatch centre and (5) suspicion of stroke by the EMS nurse.
Results: In all, 1,376 acute patients with stroke (median age 79 years; 49% women) were included. The median system delay from call to the EMS until (1) diagnosis (CT scan) and (2) arrival in a hospital ward was 3 hours and 52 minutes and 4 hours and 22 minutes respectively. The system delay (1) was significantly shorter in the county hospitals. (3) The study showed that 76% used the EMS (Gothenburg 71%; the county 79%) (p <0.0001). (4) Priority 1 was given at the dispatch centre in 54% of cases. (5) Stroke was suspected in 65%. A prenotification was sent in 32% (Gothenburg 52%; the county 20%) (p <0.0001).
Conclusion: System delay is still long and only a small fraction of patients received thrombolysis. Three of four used the EMS (more frequent in the county). They were given highest priority at the dispatch centre in half of the cases. Stroke was suspected in two thirds of the cases, but a prenotification was seldom sent to the hospital.
stroke care, emergency medical services, emergency medical services nurse, stroke pathway