Background: Promoting intravenous tissue plasminogen activator (IV tPA) in treating eligible patients with acute ischemic stroke (AIS) is critical in reducing overall stroke burden. Effective telestroke networks are proven to facilitate higher rates of IV tPA use. Increasing data on stroke outcomes continues to emerge with expansion of telestroke services nationwide.
Objective: To estimate the incidence of intracranial hemorrhage (ICH) in AIS patients treated with IV tPA via telestroke evaluation.
Methods: In this study, data from a large telestroke network comprising 36 hospitals from 3 States and associated with a university-based health system and comprehensive stroke center was utilized. Data included total of 3198 acute telestroke evaluations performed within the network between January 2014 and June 2016. Distance of spoke hospitals from the hub ranged between 2.5 and 125 miles. All telestroke consultations were done using the remote presence robotic technology. 15% of all telestroke evaluations and 51% of post-IV tPA patients were transferred to the hub. CT imaging was used for identification and ICH as defined mainly in the NINDS trial was used for comparison.
Results: Mean age of patients was 67 years (sd=16) and majority were women (n=1759, 55%). Average NIHSS score at presentation was 7. IV tPA was administered to 18% of all telestroke patients. Post IV tPA, any ICH (symptomatic or not) was noted in 8.7% of patients. Petechial hemorrhage was most frequently reported finding. Rate of any ICH in our telestroke population was relatively lower compared to the ECASS II (39%, p<0.001), ECASS III (27%, p<0.001), SITS-MOST (9.6%, p=0.63), ATLANTIS (11.4%, p=0.30), and higher than the NINDS (6.4%, p=0.29).
Conclusions: Higher rate of IV tPA use and lower rate of hemorrhagic complication observed in this large study further supports and strengthens the role of telestroke technology and expertise in treatment of AIS.