Acute Stroke Care in Non-Urban Emergency Departments

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Objective: To evaluate the practice patterns for stroke care in rural emergency departments (ED).

Methods: The authors prospectively evaluated clinical practice decisions for all ED patients in two non-urban East Texas communities using active and passive surveillance methods. Data collected included demographics, risk factors, symptoms, and treatment. Data analysis consisted of descriptive statistics and logistic regression analysis.

Results: During the study period, 429 patients presented with validated strokes. Risk factors included hypertension (65%), previous stroke (41%), coronary artery disease (33%), diabetes (25%), current smoking (17%), and atrial fibrillation (11%). In the ED, neurology consultation occurred in 32%, head CT in 88%, and ECG in 85%. Heparin was used in 9%, and 5% received aspirin. Blood pressure was lowered in 19% from a mean high of 189(±38)/97(±26), average reduction 34 points (18%) systolic. Motor symptoms were more likely to prompt a neurology consultation (OR = 2.47). Heparin was used more commonly for patients with atrial fibrillation (OR = 2.93). Socioeconomic factors did not alter care. IV recombinant tissue plasminogen activator was used in 1.4% of ischemic stroke cases.

Conclusions: Acute stroke care in this representative non-urban community frequently does not follow published guidelines or clinical trial results. Whereas a high percentage of patients receive CT, aggressive blood pressure treatment occurs commonly and at pressures below current recommendations. The use of heparin is common, more so than aspirin treatment. These facts argue for educational interventions aimed at non-urban physicians to improve evidence-based medical practice.

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Neurology, v. 57, issue 11, p. 2006-2012

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