Mapping the Ecological Terrain of Stroke Prehospital Delay: A Nationwide Registry Study

Stroke. 2024 Jun;55(6):1507-1516. doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.123.045521. Epub 2024 May 24.


Background: Delays in hospital presentation limit access to acute stroke treatments. While prior research has focused on patient-level factors, broader ecological and social determinants have not been well studied. We aimed to create a geospatial map of prehospital delay and examine the role of community-level social vulnerability.

Methods: We studied patients with ischemic stroke who arrived by emergency medical services in 2015 to 2017 from the American Heart Association Get With The Guidelines-Stroke registry. The primary outcome was time to hospital arrival after stroke (in minutes), beginning at last known well in most cases. Using Geographic Information System mapping, we displayed the geography of delay. We then used Cox proportional hazard models to study the relationship between community-level factors and arrival time (adjusted hazard ratios [aHR] <1.0 indicate delay). The primary exposure was the social vulnerability index (SVI), a metric of social vulnerability for every ZIP Code Tabulation Area ranging from 0.0 to 1.0.

Results: Of 750 336 patients, 149 145 met inclusion criteria. The mean age was 73 years, and 51% were female. The median time to hospital arrival was 140 minutes (Q1: 60 minutes, Q3: 458 minutes). The geospatial map revealed that many zones of delay overlapped with socially vulnerable areas ( Cox models (aHR, 95% CI) confirmed that higher SVI, including quartiles 3 (aHR, 0.96 [95% CI, 0.93-0.98]) and 4 (aHR, 0.93 [95% CI, 0.91-0.95]), was associated with delay. Patients from SVI quartile 4 neighborhoods arrived 15.6 minutes [15-16.2] slower than patients from SVI quartile 1. Specific SVI themes associated with delay were a community's socioeconomic status (aHR, 0.80 [95% CI, 0.74-0.85]) and housing type and transportation (aHR, 0.89 [95% CI, 0.84-0.94]).

Conclusions: This map of acute stroke presentation times shows areas with a high incidence of delay. Increased social vulnerability characterizes these areas. Such places should be systematically targeted to improve population-level stroke presentation times.

Keywords: geographic information systems; ischemic stroke; proportional hazards models; social determinants of health; stroke; time-to-treatment.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Emergency Medical Services*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Ischemic Stroke / epidemiology
  • Ischemic Stroke / therapy
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Registries*
  • Stroke / epidemiology
  • Stroke / therapy
  • Time-to-Treatment*
  • United States / epidemiology