Factors Associated With Early Presentation of Acute Stroke

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Abstract

Background and Purpose

Patients with stroke symptoms commonly delay many hours before seeking medical attention. We sought to explore the factors associated with early presentation of stroke patients to physicians.

Methods

We prospectively studied 100 consecutive acute stroke patients presenting to three large, urban medical centers. Using a standardized, structured interview and chart review, we assessed patient education about stroke, risk factors, clinical features of the stroke, source of stroke recognition, and timing of presentation. We did not study the distance from the site of stroke onset to the site of physician contact.

Results

Stroke onset time was known in 96 of the patients. Mean patient age was 71.3 years, 79% had at least one stroke risk factor, 26% had prior transient ischemic attack, 19% had prior stroke, 74% had some high school education, and 86% had regular physicians. Only 8% had been previously educated about stroke symptoms. Eighty one percent of strokes were ischemic. The mean time to physician contact was 13.4 ± 2.3 hours (median, 4.0 hours) and to neurologist contact was 21.2 ± 2.9 hours. A skewed distribution of presentation times accounts for the mean-median differences. A small number of patients presenting very late could have an effect on the correlations between presentation time and the variables studied. Early presentation time was associated with increased age, the sudden onset of a stable deficit, and recognition that the symptoms signified stroke. Only the sudden onset of a stable deficit correlated independently with early presentation time (P=.0048). There was no correlation between presentation time and prior transient ischemic attack or stroke, headache, vomiting, loss of consciousness or seizures at onset, or stroke subtype, but a type II error could not be excluded.

Conclusions

Despite their education level, regular health care, and risk factors, especially prior stroke and transient ischemic attack, these patients were not knowledgeable about stroke and delayed many hours before contacting physicians. The course of symptoms and recognition that they signified stroke were associated with earlier presentation. Patient education focused on groups at risk may hasten the presentation and treatment of acute stroke.

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