North Carolina Stroke Prevention and Treatment Facilities Survey: rtPA Therapy for Acute Stroke

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Abstract

Background and Purpose

North Carolina is situated in the "stroke belt" region of the United States, an area of the country with a particularly high incidence of cerebrovascular disease. The North Carolina Stroke Prevention and Treatment Facilities Survey was carried out to determine the availabilities of a variety of stroke prevention and treatment services throughout the state. The purpose of the present study was to determine how widely recombinant tissue-type plasminogen activator (rtPA) has been adopted for the treatment of patients with acute ischemic stroke and to determine the characteristics of the medical facilities in the state offering this therapy.

Methods

A single-page survey was mailed to the medical center directors of each inpatient medical facility in North Carolina. Data collected included questions related to the availability of selected basic and advanced diagnostic tests and procedures, stroke prevention and treatment programs and services (community stroke awareness program, acute stroke identification program, acute stroke team, stroke rtPA protocol, stroke care map, neurologist), and facilities (Stroke Acute Care Unit or equivalent).

Results

Responses were obtained from all 125 inpatient medical facilities in North Carolina. rtPA stroke protocols were adopted in 54 facilities located in 46 of the state's 100 counties. Seventy-four percent of the state's population resides in counties with hospitals providing rtPA treatment. Compared with facilities not offering rtPA, those with rtPA protocols more commonly sponsored stroke community awareness programs (41% versus 17%, P=0.003) and more frequently had an organized stroke team (31% versus 8%, P=0.001), used stroke care maps (56% versus 17%, P<0.001), had rapid stroke identification programs (33% versus 6%, P<0.001), or had a Stroke Acute Care Unit or its equivalent (33% versus 7%, P<0.001). Neurologists were available in 78% of the facilities offering rtPA compared with 38% in facilities without rtPA protocols (P<0.001).

Conclusions

These data show that this new therapy for ischemic stroke is potentially available to a high proportion of the state's citizens based on their county of residence. However, other services that may improve outcomes and reduce stroke-related costs (eg, stroke teams, stroke units, care maps) are not being widely used, even in centers providing treatment with rtPA. The simple methodology used in this study is potentially applicable in other states and permits targeting of selected centers for development of stroke treatment capabilities. (Stroke. 1998;29:2069-2072.)

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