Background Rapid diagnosis and transport by paramedics and efficient, effective emergency management are essential to improving care of acute stroke patients.

Objectives To measure the performance of paramedics and emergency departments providing care for patients with suspected acute stroke.

Methods Two stroke centers and 4 other hospitals where most patients with acute stroke in Houston, Tex, are admitted participated. Hospital and paramedic performance data were collected prospectively on 446 patients with suspected acute stroke transported by paramedics between September 1999 and February 2000.

Results Paramedics had a sensitivity of 66%, specificity of 98%, and overall accuracy of 72% in diagnosing stroke. For patients with suspected stroke, 58.5% arrived in the emergency department within 120 minutes of symptom onset; in confirmed cases, that percentage was 67%. Mean total transport time was 42.2 minutes and was significantly longer (P < .001) to inner-city hospitals (44 minutes) than to suburban, community-based centers (39 minutes). Door to computed tomography times were significantly (P < .001) shorter for the 2 stroke centers than the other hospitals. Overall thrombolysis treatment rate among patients with confirmed ischemic stroke was 7.4% (range, 0–19.4%); treatment rates at the 2 stroke centers were 5.9% and 19.4%.

Conclusions More than half of patients with suspected stroke arrive at hospitals while thrombolytic treatment is still feasible. Although the current rate for thrombolytic treatment in Houston exceeds the national rate, performance of paramedics and hospitals in treating acute stroke can be improved by increasing efficiency and standardizing medical practices.

You do not currently have access to this content.