Prehospital Computed Tomography Angiography in Acute Stroke Management

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Background: An ambulance equipped with a computed tomography (CT) scanner, a point-of-care laboratory, and telemedicine capabilities (mobile stroke unit [MSU]) has been shown to enable the delivery of thrombolysis to stroke patients directly at the emergency site, thereby significantly decreasing time to treatment. However, work-up in an MSU that includes CT angiography (CTA) may also potentially facilitate triage of patients directly to the appropriate target hospital and specialized treatment, according to their individual vascular pathology. Methods: Our institution manages a program investigating the prehospital management of patients with suspicion of acute stroke. Here, we report a range of scenarios in which prehospital CTA could be relevant in triaging patients to the appropriate target hospital and to the individually required treatment. Results: Prehospital CTA by use of an MSU allowed to detect large vessel occlusion of the middle cerebral artery in one patient with ischemic stroke and occlusion of the basilar artery in another, thereby allowing rational triage to comprehensive stroke centers for immediate intra-arterial treatment. In complementary cases, prehospital imaging not only allowed diagnosis of parenchymal hemorrhage with a spot sign indicating ongoing bleeding in one patient and of subarachnoid hemorrhage in another but also clarified the underlying vascular pathology, which was relevant for subsequent triage decisions. Conclusion: Defining the vascular pathology by CTA directly at the emergency site may be beneficial in triaging patients with various cerebrovascular diseases to the most appropriate target hospital and specialized treatment.

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