A novel emergency medical services protocol to improve treatment time for large vessel occlusion strokes

PLoS One. 2022 Feb 25;17(2):e0264539. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0264539. eCollection 2022.


In many systems, patients with large vessel occlusion (LVO) strokes experience delays in transport to thrombectomy-capable centers. This pilot study examined use of a novel emergency medical services (EMS) protocol to expedite transfer of patients with LVOs to a comprehensive stroke center (CSC). From October 1, 2020 to February 22, 2021, Indianapolis EMS piloted a protocol, in which paramedics, after transporting a patient with a possible stroke remained at the patient's bedside until released by the emergency department or neurology physician. In patients with possible LVO, EMS providers remained at the bedside until the clinical assessment and CT angiography (CTA) were complete. If indicated, the paramedics at bedside transferred the patient, via the same ambulance, to a nearby thrombectomy-capable CSC with which an automatic transfer agreement had been arranged. This five-month mixed methods study included case-control assessment of use of the protocol, number of transfers, safety during transport, and time saved in transfer compared to emergent transfers via conventional interfacility transfer agencies. In qualitative analysis EMS providers, and ED physicians and neurologists at both sending and receiving institutions, completed e-mail surveys on the process, and offered suggestions for process improvement. Responses were coded with an inductive content analysis approach. The protocol was used 42 times during the study period; four patients were found to have LVOs and were transferred to the CSC. There were no adverse events. Median time from decision-to-transfer to arrival at the CSC was 27.5 minutes (IQR 24.5-29.0), compared to 314.5 minutes (IQR 204.0-459.3) for acute non-stroke transfers during the same period. Major themes of provider impressions included: incomplete awareness of the protocol, smooth process, challenges when a stroke alert was activated after EMS left the hospital, greater involvement of EMS in patient care, and comments on communication and efficiency. This pilot study demonstrated the feasibility, safety, and efficiency of a novel approach to expedite endovascular therapy for patients with LVOs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Arterial Occlusive Diseases / therapy
  • Clinical Protocols*
  • Computed Tomography Angiography
  • Emergency Medical Services* / methods
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ischemic Stroke / therapy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neurologists / psychology
  • Patient Transfer
  • Physicians / psychology
  • Pilot Projects
  • Stroke / therapy*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Time-to-Treatment*