Introduction: In our metropolitan area, the Stroke Code (SC) system allows immediate transfer of patients with acute stroke to a stroke center. It may be activated by community hospitals (A), emergency medical services (EMS, B), or the emergency department of the stroke center (C). Our aim was to analyze whether the SC activation source influences the access to thrombolytic therapy and outcome of patients with ischemic stroke.
Methods: We prospectively registered patients with ischemic stroke admitted to the acute stroke unit who arrived through the SC system. The primary outcome variable was good outcome at discharge (Rankin Scale <or= 2). Secondary outcome was neurologic improvement >or=4 in National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS) score or NIHSS score 0 to 1 at 24 hours.
Results: A total of 262 consecutive patients with hyperacute ischemic stroke were studied; the SC source was A in 112, B in 57, and C in 92. Median time from onset to admission was longer in Group A and stroke severity higher in Groups B and C. Percentage of tPA administration was higher in patients from Groups B and C (27%, 54%, and 46% of patients; p = 0.001). With respect to Group A, Group B was associated with good outcome with an odds of 2.9 (1.2-6.6; p = 0.01), and Group C with an odds of 2.4 (1.1-4.9; p = 0.01) after adjustment for age and stroke severity at baseline. Patients coming via levels B and C were more likely to improve at 24 hours.
Conclusions: Patients arriving directly to the stroke center via emergency medical services or on their own receive neurologic attention sooner, are more frequently treated with tPA, and have better clinical outcome than those patients who are first taken to a community hospital.