Background and purpose: Intravenous tissue plasminogen activator is the most effective treatment for acute ischemic stroke, and its use may therefore serve as an indicator of the available level of acute stroke care. The greatest burden of stroke is in low- and middle-income countries, but the extent to which intravenous tissue plasminogen activator is used in these countries is unreported.
Summary of review: A systematic review was performed searching each country name AND 'stroke' OR 'tissue plasminogen activator' OR 'thrombolysis' using PubMed, Embase, Global Health, African Index Medicus, and abstracts published in the International Journal of Stroke (Jan. 1, 1996-Oct. 1, 2012). The reported use of intravenous tissue plasminogen activator was then analyzed according to country-level income status, total expenditure on health per capita, and mortality and disability-adjusted life years due to stroke. There were 118,780 citations reviewed. Of 214 countries and independent territories, 64 (30%) reported use of intravenous tissue plasminogen activator for acute ischemic stroke in the medical literature: 3% (1/36) low-income, 19% (10/54) lower-middle-income, 33% (18/54) upper-middle-income, and 50% (35/70) high-income-countries (test for trend, P < 0.001). When considering country-level determinants of reported intravenous tissue plasminogen activator use for acute ischemic stroke, total healthcare expenditure per capita (odds ratio 3.3 per 1000 international dollar increase, 95% confidence interval 1.4-9.9, P = 0.02) and reported mortality rate from cerebrovascular disease (odds ratio 1.02, 95% confidence interval 0.99-1.06, P = 0.02) were significant, but reported disability-adjusted life years from cerebrovascular diseases and gross national income per capita were not (P > 0.05). Of the 10 countries with the highest disability-adjusted life years due to stroke, only one reported intravenous tissue plasminogen activator use.
Conclusions: By reported use, intravenous tissue plasminogen activator for acute ischemic stroke is available to some patients in approximately one-third of countries. Access to advanced acute stroke care is most limited where the greatest burden of cerebrovascular disease is reported.
Keywords: epidemiology; global health; stroke; thrombolysis.
© 2013 The Authors. International Journal of Stroke © 2013 World Stroke Organization.