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Thrombolysis for treatment of acute ischemic stroke should be administered as fast as possible after symptom onset. The aim of this study was to examine, in our tertiary care center, the time intervals preceding intra-arterial thrombolysis in order to accelerate and optimize the management of acute strokes.Between January 1, 2000, and April 30, 2002, 597 patients with acute stroke were admitted to our stroke center. One hundred forty-eight patients underwent diagnostic arteriography, and 100 (16.8%) received intra-arterial thrombolysis. For all patients, we prospectively recorded and analyzed the time of symptom onset, admission, CT and/or MRI scan, diagnostic arteriography, and, if performed, intra-arterial thrombolysis.The mean time to arrival in the emergency department was 99 minutes for patients who were admitted directly (Bern patients), 127 minutes for those who were referred from community hospitals without a CT scanner (non-Bern/−CT patients), and 210 minutes for patients from hospitals with imaging facilities (non-Bern/+CT patients). The mean delay from symptom onset to treatment was 234 minutes for Bern patients, 269 minutes for non-Bern/−CT patients, and 302 minutes for non-Bern/+CT patients. The patients from the last group needed longer to receive intra-arterial thrombolysis than did patients who were admitted directly (P =0.002) or who were transferred from a hospital without a CT scanner (P =0.03).This prospective study indicates that direct referral without prior imaging at community hospitals shortens the time until intra-arterial thrombolysis. In addition, our in-hospital delay preceding intra-arterial thrombolysis is longer than the delays reported for intravenous thrombolysis and indicates potential for improvement.