Introduction: The impact of prehospital triage of stroke mimics to designated stroke centers may be considerable, yet little information exists regarding stroke mimics in the prehospital setting. We aimed to describe the rate and clinical characteristics of neurological and non-neurological stroke mimics transported by Emergency Medical Services (EMS) to the Emergency Department (ED) for acute stroke evaluation.
Methods: A retrospective, cross-sectional, observational analysis of a centralized EMS database of patients transported by EMS to the ED for suspected stroke during an 18-month period. Hospital charts and neuroimaging were utilized to determine the final diagnosis (acute stroke, stroke mimic, as well as specific underlying diagnoses).
Results: A total of 960 patients were transported by EMS to the ED with suspected stroke, among whom 405 (42.2%) were stroke mimics (mean age ± SD: 66.9 ± 17.1 years; 54% male). Stroke mimics were neurological in origin in 223 (55.1%) patients and non-neurological in 182 (44.9%). Most common neurological diagnoses were seizures (n=44,19.7%), migraines (n=42,18.8%) and peripheral neuropathies (n=25, 11.2%). Most common non-neurological mimics included cardiovascular (15.9%), psychiatric (11.9%), and infectious (8.9%) diagnoses. Neurological mimics were younger (64.1 ± 17.3 years) than non-neurological mimics (70.5 ± 16.1 years, p<0.001). Median prehospital Glasgow Coma Scale scores were similar between groups (15 vs. 15, p=0.26). Mean prehospital systolic blood pressure was slightly higher in neurological (147.8±24.2 mmHg) than non-neurological mimics (141.2±26.2 mmHg, p=0.01).
Conclusions: Stroke mimics represent a substantial number of patients transported by EMS for suspected stroke, with a considerable amount being non-neurological in origin. Prospective prehospital studies are warranted to help refine prehospital identification of acute stroke and thus minimize the number of stroke mimics transported by EMS for acute stroke evaluation.