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Despite advances in the quality and delivery of stroke care, regional disparities in stroke incidence and outcome persist. Spatial analysis using geographic information systems (GIS) can assist in identifying high-risk populations and regional differences in efficacy of stroke care. The aim of this study was to identify and locate geographic clusters of high or low rates of stroke, risk factors, and in-hospital mortality across a provincial health care network in Alberta, Canada.
This study employed a spatial epidemiological approach using population-based hospital administrative data. Getis-Ord Gi* and Spatial Scan statistics were used to identify and locate statistically significant “hot” and “cold” spots of stroke occurrence by type, risk factors, and in-hospital mortality.
Marked regional variations were found. East central Alberta was a significant hot spot for ischemic stroke (relative risk [RR] 1.43, p<0.001), transient ischemic attack (RR 2.25, p<0.05), and in-hospital mortality (RR 1.50, p<0.05). Hot spots of intracerebral hemorrhage (RR 1.80, p<0.05) and subarachnoid hemorrhage (RR 1.64, p<0.05) were identified in a major urban centre. Unexpectedly, stroke risk factor hot spots (RR 2.58, p<0.001) were not spatially associated (did not overlap) with hot spots of ischemic stroke, transient ischemic attack, or in-hospital mortality.
Integration of health care administrative data sets with geographic information systems contributes valuable information by identifying the existence and location of regional disparities in the spatial distribution of stroke occurrence and outcomes. Findings from this study raise important questions regarding why regional differences exist and how disparities might be mitigated.
Stroke thrombolysis is limited by the “last-seen well” principle, which defines stroke onset time. A significant minority of stroke patients (~15%) awake with their symptoms and are by definition ineligible for thrombolysis because they were “last-seen well” at the time they went to bed implying an interval that is most often greater than three hours.
A single-centre prospective, safety study was designed to thrombolyse 20 subjects with stroke-on-awakening. Patients were eligible for inclusion if they were last seen well less than 12 hours previously, specifically including those who awoke from sleep with their stroke deficits. They had a baseline computed tomogram (CT) scan with an ASPECTS score greater than 5, no evidence of well-evolved infarction and a CT angiogram / Trans-cranial Doppler ultrasound study demonstrating an intracranial arterial occlusion. Patients fulfilled all other standard criteria for stroke thrombolysis. The primary outcome was safety defined by symptomatic ICH or death.
Among 89 screened patients, 20 were treated with thrombolysis. Two patients (10%) died due to massive carotid territory stroke and two patients (10%) died of stroke complications. Two patients (10%) showed asymptomatic intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH) (petechial hemorrhage) and none symptomatic ICH. Reasons for exclusion were: (a) ASPECTS ≤ 5 (29); (b) well-evolved infarcts on CT (19); (c) historical mRS > 2 (17); (d) no demonstrable arterial occlusion or were too mild to warrant treatment (10).
Patients who awake with their deficits can be safely treated with thrombolysis based upon a tissue window defined by NCCT and CTA/TCD.
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