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1) To evaluate whether transient ischemic attack (TIA) management in emergency departments (EDs) of the Nova Scotia Capital District Health Authority followed Canadian Best Practice Recommendations, and 2) to assess the impact of being followed up in a dedicated outpatient neurovascular clinic.
Retrospective chart review of all patients discharged from EDs in our district from January 1, 2011 to December 31, 2012 with a diagnosis of TIA. Cox proportional hazards models, Kaplan-Meier survival curve, and propensity matched analyses were used to evaluate 90-day mortality and readmission.
Of the 686 patients seen in the ED for TIA, 88.3% received computed tomography (CT) scanning, 86.3% received an electrocardiogram (ECG), 35% received vascular imaging within 24 hours of triage, 36% were seen in a neurovascular clinic, and 4.2% experienced stroke, myocardial infarction, or vascular death within 90 days. Rates of antithrombotic use were increased in patients seen in a neurovascular clinic compared to those who were not (94% v. 86.3%, p<0.0001). After adjustment for age, sex, vascular disease risk factors, and stroke symptoms, the risk of readmission for stroke, myocardial infarction, or vascular death was lower for those seen in a neurovascular clinic compared to those who were not (adjusted hazard ratio 0.28; 95% confidence interval 0.08–0.99, p=0.048).
The majority of patients in our study were treated with antithrombotic agents in the ED and investigated with CT and ECG within 24 hours; however, vascular imaging and neurovascular clinic follow-up were underutilized. For those with neurovascular clinic follow-up, there was an association with reduced risk of subsequent stroke, myocardial infarction, or vascular death.
Previous studies describe significant rates of misdiagnosis of stroke, seizure and other neurological problems, but there are few studies examining diagnostic accuracy of all emergency referrals to a neurology service. This information could be useful in focusing the neurological education of physicians who assess and refer patients with neurological complaints in emergency departments.
All neurological consultations in the emergency department at a tertiary-care teaching hospital were recorded for six months. The initial diagnosis of the requesting physician was recorded for each patient. This was compared to the initial diagnosis of the consulting neurologist and to the final diagnosis, as determined by retrospective chart review.
Over a six-month period, 493 neurological consultations were requested. The initial diagnosis of the requesting physician agreed with the final diagnosis in 60.4% (298/493) of cases, and disagreed or was uncertain in 35.7% of cases (19.1% and 16.6% respectively). In 3.9% of cases, the initial diagnosis of both the referring physician and the neurologist disagreed with the final diagnosis. Common misdiagnoses included neurocardiogenic syncope, peripheral vertigo, primary headache and psychogenic syndromes. Often, these were initially diagnosed as stroke or seizure.
Our data indicate that misdiagnosis or diagnostic uncertainty occurred in over one-third of all neurological consultations in the emergency department setting. Benign neurological conditions, such as migraine, syncope and peripheral vertigo are frequently mislabeled as seizure or stroke. Educational strategies that emphasize emergent evaluation of these common conditions could improve diagnostic accuracy, and may result in better patient care.
Fatigue affects 33-77% of stroke survivors. There is no consensus concerning risk factors for fatigue post-stroke, perhaps reflecting the multifaceted nature of fatigue. We characterized post-stroke fatigue using the Fatigue Impact Scale (FIS), a validated questionnaire capturing physical, cognitive, and psychosocial aspects of fatigue.
The Stroke Outcomes Study (SOS) prospectively enrolled ischemic stroke patients from 2001-2002. Measures collected included basic demographics, pre-morbid function (Oxford Handicap Scale, OHS), stroke severity (Stroke Severity Scale, SSS), stroke subtype (Oxfordshire Community Stroke Project Classification, OCSP), and discharge function (OHS; Barthel Index, BI). An interview was performed at 12 months evaluating function (BI; Modified Rankin Score, mRS), quality of life (Reintegration into Normal living Scale, RNL), depression (Geriatric Depression Scale, GDS), and fatigue (FIS).
We enrolled 522 ischemic stroke patients and 228 (57.6%) survivors completed one-year follow-up. In total, 36.8% endorsed fatigue (59.5% rated one of worst post-stroke symptoms). Linear regression demonstrated younger age was associated with increased fatigue frequency (β=-0.20;p=0.01), duration (β=-0.22;p<0.01), and disability (β=-0.24;p<0.01). Younger patients were more likely to describe fatigue as one of the worst symptoms post-stroke (β=-0.24;p=0.001). Younger patients experienced greater impact on cognitive (β=-0.27;p<0.05) and psychosocial (β=-0.27;p<0.05) function due to fatigue. Fatigue was correlated with depressive symptoms and diminished quality of life. Fatigue occurred without depression as 49.0% of respondents with fatigue as one of their worst symptoms did not have an elevated GDS.
Age was the only consistent predictor of fatigue severity at one year. Younger participants experienced increased cognitive and psychosocial fatigue.
The cautiously-worded Position Statement recently issued by the Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians (see Appendix 1) regarding the use of intravenous recombinant tissue-plasminogen activator (tPA, alteplase) for acute ischemic stroke underscores the reality that many physicians in Canada have been reluctant to embrace this therapy. Much of the caution expressed in the CAEP document is related to 2 major areas of concern: evidence of efficacy (i.e., did tPA really “prove” itself in randomized trials?) and effectiveness (i.e., are the trial results generalizable to everyday practice?). While we support the development of documents that help to clarify controversial treatments, and agree with much of what is presented in the CAEP Position Statement, we offer the following comments.
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