Background and Objective: Intra-arterial therapy (IA) is beneficial for acute ischemic stroke patients with large vessel occlusions who have received intravenous tissue plasminogen activator (IVtPA). Telestroke has not been associated with increased IVtPA utilization rates when compared to phone consultations. We sought to determine whether telestroke improved the process of evaluation and transfer of patients who may be eligible for intra-arterial therapy (IA).
Methods: The Rush telestroke program consists of an academic hub (comprehensive stroke center) that serves 10 spoke emergency departments (EDs). For sites outside of the telestroke program, the patient receives telephone consultation from the same pool of telestroke neurologists. IA therapy is considered for patients clinically suspected of having a large vessel occlusion who could potentially be treated with IA within 6 hours of last known normal (LKN). We compared IA eligible stroke patients transferred via the telestroke program to those non-telestroke transfer patients.
Results: From July 1, 2013 to July 1, 2015, 126 patients were transferred from outside hospital ERs to our institution for potential IA; 6 patients were excluded for non-stroke diagnosis. Among 119 patients, 79 (66%) were evaluated via telestroke and 40 (34%) via phone consultation. There was no difference between groups for age (63.3 vs 59.3 years, p=0.14) female gender (52% vs 58%, p=0.70), hypertension (66% vs 78%, p 0.21), atrial fibrillation (27% vs 20%, p=0.50), initial arrival NIHSS (17 vs 19, p=0.12), frequency of IA (66% vs 55%, p=0.31), mean time from LKN to IVtPA administration (139 vs 138 minutes, p=0.96), mean time from IVtPA administration to arrival (106 vs 94 minutes, p=0.31), and mean time from arrival to IA start (35 vs 31 minutes, p=0.44). More patients who were evaluated via telestroke received TPA compared to those evaluated via phone (80% vs 63%, p<0.05).
Conclusions: Telestroke improves the evaluation of IA eligible stroke transfer patients by increasing the rates of IVtPA compared with telephone consultation alone. Comprehensive stroke centers may benefit patients by incorporating telestroke systems into their IA transfer programs.