Time Delays in Accessing Stroke Care in the Emergency Department


Department of Emergency Medicine, CB 7594, Ground Floor Neurosciences, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, NC 27599-7594. Fax: 919-966-3049; e-mail:dmorris@med.unc.edu


Objective: To delineate components of delay within the hospital ED for patients presenting with symptoms of stroke. Methods: A prospective registry of patients presenting to the ED with signs or symptoms of stroke was established at a university hospital from July 1995 to March 1996. The ED arrival time, time to being seen by an emergency physician (EP), time to CT scan, and time to neurology consultation were obtained by medical record review. Results: The median delay (interquartile range) from ED arrival to being seen by an EP for the 170 eligible subjects was 0.42 (0.20-0.75) hours. The median delay to CT scan was 1.88 hours (1.25-2.67) and the median delay to neurology consultation was 2.42 hours (1.50-3.48). Age, race, sex, and hospital discharge diagnosis had little influence on delay. Subjects arriving by emergency medical services (EMS) had a significantly shorter time to being seen by an EP (0.33 vs 0.50 hours) when compared with those who arrived by other means. Time to CT scan was shorter by 0.5 hours for patients arriving by EMS as well. These differences persisted when stratified by out-of-hospital delay times. Conclusions: These data suggest that arriving by EMS is associated with shorter times to being seen by an EP and receiving a CT scan. The influence of EMS on delays associated with rapid medical care of stroke patients reaches beyond the out-of-hospital transport phase.