Transcranial ultrasound from diagnosis to early stroke treatment: part 2: prehospital neurosonography in patients with acute stroke: the Regensburg stroke mobile project

Cerebrovasc Dis. 2012;33(3):262-71. doi: 10.1159/000334667. Epub 2012 Jan 19.


Background and purpose: The primary aim of this study was to investigate the diagnostic accuracy and time frames for neurological and transcranial color-coded sonography (TCCS) assessments in a prehospital '911' emergency stroke situation by using portable duplex ultrasound devices to visualize the bilateral middle cerebral arteries (MCAs).

Methods: This study was conducted between May 2010 and January 2011. Patients who had sustained strokes in the city of Regensburg and the surrounding area in Bavaria, Germany, were enrolled in the study. After a '911 stroke code' call had been dispatched, stroke neurologists with expertise in ultrasonography rendezvoused with the paramedic team at the site of the emergency. After a brief neurological assessment had been completed, the patients underwent TCCS with optional administration of an ultrasound contrast agent in cases of insufficient temporal bone windows or if the agent had acute therapeutic relevance. The ultrasound studies were performed at the site of the emergency or in the ambulance during patient transport to the admitting hospital. Relevant timelines, such as the time from the stroke alarm to patient arrival at the hospital and the duration of the TCCS, were documented, and positive and negative predictive values for the diagnosis of major MCA occlusion were assessed.

Results: A total of 113 patients were enrolled in the study. MCA occlusion was diagnosed in 10 patients. In 9 of these 10 patients, MCA occlusion could be visualized using contrast-enhanced or non-contrast-enhanced TCCS during patient transport and was later confirmed using computed tomography or magnetic resonance angiography. One MCA occlusion was missed by TCCS and 1 atypical hemorrhage was misdiagnosed. Overall, the sensitivity of a 'field diagnosis' of MCA occlusion was 90% [95% confidence interval (CI) 55.5-99.75%] and the specificity was 98% (95% CI 92.89-99.97%). The positive predictive value was 90% (95% CI 55.5-99.75%) and the negative predictive value was 98% (95% CI 92.89-99.97%). The mean time (standard deviation) from ambulance dispatch to arrival at the patient was 12.3 min (7.09); the mean time for the TCCS examination was 5.6 min (2.2); and the overall mean transport time to the hospital was 53 min (18).

Conclusion: Prehospital diagnosis of MCA occlusion in stroke patients is feasible using portable duplex ultrasonography with or without administration of a microbubble contrast agent. Prehospital neurological as well as transcranial vascular assessments during patient transport can be performed by a trained neurologist with high sensitivity and specificity, perhaps opening an additional therapeutic window for sonothrombolysis or neuroprotective strategies.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Ambulances*
  • Emergency Medical Services / methods*
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Female
  • Germany
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Cerebral Artery / diagnostic imaging
  • Predictive Value of Tests
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Stroke / diagnostic imaging*
  • Time Factors
  • Ultrasonography, Doppler, Transcranial / instrumentation*