Identification of nonischemic stroke mimics among 411 code strokes at the University of California, San Diego, Stroke Center

J Stroke Cerebrovasc Dis. 2008 Jan-Feb;17(1):23-5. doi: 10.1016/j.jstrokecerebrovasdis.2007.09.008.


Background: Code Stroke systems are widely used to expedite emergency treatment of patients with stroke. Code Stroke for mimic patients-those without a stroke cause-wastes resources. We investigated how many times a Code Stroke was initiated for patients who did not have a stroke appropriate for thrombolysis.

Methods: We conducted a retrospective review of the discharge diagnoses of all patients who presented to our emergency department as a Code Stroke. A patient was considered a stroke mimic if a stroke code was activated, but none of the first 3 International Classification of Diseases, Ninth Revision codes on discharge were transient ischemic attack-related or ischemic stroke-related.

Results: A total of 411 patients presented to the emergency department as Code Stroke. In all, 104 (25.3%) were discharged without a diagnosis of stroke or transient ischemic attack. The diagnoses in this group were intracranial hemorrhage in 19 patients, subarachnoid hemorrhage 6, subdural hematoma 3, old deficit 11, hypotension 11, seizure 10, intoxication 8, hypoglycemia 7, mass lesion 6, migraine 5, and other 18. In all, 33 of 307 eligible patients (10.7%) were treated with tissue-type plasminogen activator. None of the patients with a stroke mimic received tissue-type plasminogen activator. In 44 of 104 stroke mimics (42.3%), the acute disease was caused by a severe neurologic condition other than ischemic cerebrovascular disease. Only 60 of 411 stroke codes (14.6%) were initiated for patients without a severe and acute neurologic condition.

Conclusions: In our community, 25.5% of all Code Strokes were initiated for stroke mimics. Most mimic patients had an illness likely to benefit from urgent neurologic evaluation.

MeSH terms

  • Academic Medical Centers / economics
  • Academic Medical Centers / standards
  • Academic Medical Centers / statistics & numerical data*
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Brain Ischemia / diagnosis
  • Brain Ischemia / drug therapy
  • Brain Ischemia / epidemiology
  • California / epidemiology
  • Cerebral Hemorrhage / diagnosis
  • Cerebral Hemorrhage / epidemiology
  • Current Procedural Terminology
  • Diagnostic Errors / prevention & control
  • Diagnostic Errors / statistics & numerical data*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / economics
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / standards
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • False Positive Reactions
  • Female
  • Humans
  • International Classification of Diseases*
  • Intracranial Hypotension / diagnosis
  • Intracranial Hypotension / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Seizures / diagnosis
  • Seizures / epidemiology
  • Stroke / diagnosis*
  • Stroke / drug therapy*
  • Stroke / epidemiology
  • Thrombolytic Therapy / economics
  • Thrombolytic Therapy / statistics & numerical data
  • Thrombolytic Therapy / trends
  • Tissue Plasminogen Activator / therapeutic use


  • Tissue Plasminogen Activator