• acute stroke;
  • organizational model;
  • prehospital;
  • regional variation;
  • thrombolysis


Treatment rates with intravenous tissue plasminogen activator vary by region, which can be partially explained by organizational models of stroke care. A recent study demonstrated that prehospital factors determine a higher thrombolysis rate in a centralized vs. decentralized model in the north of the Netherlands.


To investigate prehospital factors that may explain variation in thrombolytic therapy between a centralized and a decentralized model.


A consecutive case observational study was conducted in the north of the Netherlands comparing patients arriving within 4·5 h in a centralized vs. decentralized stroke care model. Factors investigated were transportation mode, prehospital diagnostic accuracy, and preferential referral of thrombolysis candidates. Potential confounders were adjusted using logistic regression analysis.


A total of 172 and 299 arriving within 4·5 h were enrolled in centralized and decentralized settings, respectively. The rate of transportation by emergency medical services was greater in the centralized model (adjusted odds ratio 3·11; 95% confidence interval, 1·59–6·06). Also, more misdiagnoses of stroke occurred in the central model (P = 0·05). In postal code areas with and without potential preferential referral of thrombolysis candidates due to overlapping catchment areas, the odds of hospital arrival within 4·5 h in the central vs. decentral model were 2·15 (95% confidence interval, 1·39–3·32) and 1·44 (95% confidence interval, 1·04–2·00), respectively.


These results suggest that the larger proportion of patients arriving within 4·5 h in the centralized model might be related to a lower threshold to use emergency services to transport stroke patients and partly to preferential referral of thrombolysis candidates.