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Keywords:

  • acute stroke therapy;
  • cerebral infarction;
  • ischaemic stroke;
  • rtPA;
  • stroke subtypes;
  • thrombolysis

Background

Lack of recognition of early symptoms of acute posterior circulation ischaemic stroke might delay timely diagnosis and treatment with tissue plasminogen activator.

Aims and hypothesis

We hypothesized that patients with posterior circulation stroke receive delayed thrombolytic treatment in comparison to anterior circulation stroke. We investigated the differences in times to evaluation or treatment between patients with anterior circulation ischaemic stroke and posterior circulation stroke in our aim to understand the barriers that might have caused these delays.

Methods

A cross-sectional study was conducted using consecutive patients presenting to our tertiary academic centre with acute ischaemic stroke who were treated with intravenous tissue plasminogen activator within 4·5 h from symptom onset. We compared demographics, stroke severity, symptoms and signs, and time intervals among onset, emergency department arrival, emergency department physician evaluation, neurologist evaluation, brain imaging, and tissue plasminogen activator treatment in patients with anterior circulation stroke and posterior circulation stroke.

Results

Among 252 patients treated with intravenous tissue plasminogen activator, 12% had posterior circulation stroke. Patients with posterior circulation stroke had significantly lower median baseline the National Institutes of Health and Stroke Scale (NIHSS) score (P = 0·01), higher frequency of nausea (P < 0·01), vomiting (P < 0·01), dizziness (P < 0·01), and lower frequency of aphasia (P = 0·002) or neglect (P = 0·048). The emergency department physician evaluation-to-neurologist evaluation and door-to-needle intervals were significantly longer for posterior circulation stroke patients compared with anterior circulation stroke patients. The neurologist-to-needle time, however, was similar in the two groups. The presence of nausea and vomiting was associated with a longer time from emergency department evaluation to neurology evaluation and had a significant association with delayed treatment.

Conclusions

Posterior circulation stroke patients had a delay in neurology evaluation after initial emergency department evaluation and a delay in intravenous tissue plasminogen activator administration compared with anterior circulation stroke patients. There may be difficulties in rapidly recognizing the symptoms of posterior circulation stroke, in contrast to anterior circulation stroke, in the emergency department.