Introduction: Delays in identification and treatment of acute stroke contribute to significant morbidity and mortality. Multiple clinical factors have been associated with delays in acute stroke care. We aimed to determine the relationship between emergency department (ED) crowding and the delivery of timely emergency stroke care.
Methods: We used prospectively collected data from our institutional Get with the Guidelines-Stroke registry to identify consecutive acute ischemic stroke patients presenting to our urban academic ED from July 2016-August 2018. We used capacity logs to determine the degree of ED crowding at the time of patients' presentation and classified them as ordinal variables (normal, high, and severe capacity constraints). Outcomes of interest were door-to-imaging time (DIT) among patients potentially eligible for alteplase or endovascular therapy on presentation, door-to-needle time (DTN) for alteplase delivery, and door-to-groin puncture (DTP) times for endovascular therapy. Bivariate comparisons were made using t-tests, chi-square, and Wilcoxon rank-sum tests as appropriate. We used regression models to examine the relationship after accounting for patient demographics, transfer status, arrival mode, and initial stroke severity by the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale.
Results: Of the 1379 patients with ischemic stroke presenting during the study period, 1081 (78%) presented at times of normal capacity, 203 (15%) during high ED crowding, and 94 (7%) during severe crowding. Median DIT was 26 minutes (interquartile range [IQR] 17-52); DTN time was 43 minutes (IQR 31-59); and median DTP was 58.5 minutes (IQR 56.5-100). Treatment times were not significantly different during periods of higher ED utilization in bivariate or in multivariable testing.
Conclusion: In our single institution analysis, we found no significant delays in stroke care delivery associated with increased ED crowding. This finding suggests that robust processes of care may enable continued high-quality acute care delivery, even during times with an increased capacity burden.