Optimal Transport Destination for Ischemic Stroke Patients With Unknown Vessel Status: Use of Prehospital Triage Scores

Stroke. 2017 Aug;48(8):2184-2191. doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.117.017281. Epub 2017 Jun 27.


Background and purpose: Patients with acute ischemic stroke (AIS) and large vessel occlusion may benefit from direct transportation to an endovascular capable comprehensive stroke center (mothership approach) as opposed to direct transportation to the nearest stroke unit without endovascular therapy (drip and ship approach). The optimal transport strategy for patients with AIS and unknown vessel status is uncertain. The rapid arterial occlusion evaluation scale (RACE, scores ranging from 0 to 9, with higher scores indicating higher stroke severity) correlates with the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale and was developed to identify patients with large vessel occlusion in a prehospital setting. We evaluate how the RACE scale can help to inform prehospital triage decisions for AIS patients.

Methods: In a model-based approach, we estimate probabilities of good outcome (modified Rankin Scale score of ≤2 at 3 months) as a function of severity of stroke symptoms and transport times for the mothership approach and the drip and ship approach. We use these probabilities to obtain optimal RACE cutoff scores for different transfer time settings and combinations of treatment options (time-based eligibility for secondary transfer under the drip and ship approach, time-based eligibility for thrombolysis at the comprehensive stroke center under the mothership approach).

Results: In our model, patients with AIS are more likely to benefit from direct transportation to the comprehensive stroke center if they have more severe strokes. Values of the optimal RACE cutoff scores range from 0 (mothership for all patients) to >9 (drip and ship for all patients). Shorter transfer times and longer door-to-needle and needle-to-transfer (door out) times are associated with lower optimal RACE cutoff scores.

Conclusions: Use of RACE cutoff scores that take into account transport times to triage AIS patients to the nearest appropriate hospital may lead to improved outcomes. Further studies should examine the feasibility of translation into clinical practice.

Keywords: emergency medical services; probability; stroke; thrombectomy; triage.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain Ischemia / diagnosis*
  • Brain Ischemia / therapy
  • Emergency Medical Services / methods*
  • Emergency Medical Services / standards
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Stroke / diagnosis*
  • Stroke / therapy
  • Time-to-Treatment* / standards
  • Transportation of Patients / methods*
  • Transportation of Patients / standards
  • Triage / methods*
  • Triage / standards