HONOLULU – The speed at which eligible U.S. patients with acute ischemic stroke receive thrombolytic therapy has surged in recent years, and .
By the second half of last year, 75% of acute ischemic stroke patients treated at any of the 913 U.S. hospitals in theprogram received intravenous tissue plasminogen activator (tPA; Alteplase) within 60 minutes of their hospital arrival (their door-to-needle time (DTN), and 52% received tPA with a DTN time of 45 minutes or less. These levels met the treatment-speed goals set by the second phase of the program, which called for delivering tPA to 75% of appropriate stroke patients within a DTN time of 60 minutes, and within 45 minutes in at least 50% of patients, , and his associates reported at the International Stroke Conference, sponsored by the American Heart Association.
The analyses they reported also documented how these most recent gains in thrombolytic speed played out in improved patient outcomes. During phase 2 of Target: Stroke, which ran from January 2014 to September 2018, 85,078 U.S. patients received tPA at one of the participating hospitals. During those 4 years, the rate of in-hospital mortality was 6.0%, half the patients were discharged home, 53% could ambulate independently, and the rate of intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH) was 3.5%. The researchers compared these clinical event rates with the rates from 24,603 tPA-treated patients during 2003-2009, before the Target: Stroke campaign began. After adjustment for many potential confounders, the more recently treated cohort had a 31% relative risk reduction in in-hospital mortality, a 43% relative increase in being discharged home, a 40% relative increase in independent ambulation, and a 32% relative risk reduction in the rate of symptomatic ICH. All these between-group differences were statistically significant.
“We were hoping that, by improving DTN times we could achieve improved outcomes, but often in quality-improvement research – even when the process of care improves – the gains in outcomes don’t necessarily match expectations. Fortunately, with Target: Stroke, the remarkable improvements in timely treatment translated to remarkable improvements in clinical outcomes,” Dr. Fonarow said in an interview. “These are substantial, clinically relevant improvements in clinical outcomes for patients with acute ischemic stroke. As a result of the program, more than 100,000 acute ischemic stroke patients received much more timely acute ischemic stroke care and achieved far better clinical outcomes.”
During the 2003-2018 period reviewed, the percentage of presenting acute ischemic stroke patients who received tPA treatment at the 913 Get With The Guidelines hospitals that participated in the Target: Stroke program (and so had reviewable data) throughout all three periods rose from 6% during 2003-2009 (prestudy) to 8% during 2010-2013 (phase 1), and to 12% during 2014-2018 (phase 2). The percentages of these patients who received the drug within 60 minutes were 27% during 2003-2009, 43% during 2010-2013, and 68% during the entire 2014-2018 period, culminating in the 75% rate during July-September 2018, reported Dr. Fonarow, professor of medicine and cochief of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Dr. Fonarow attributed the drop in the rate of ICH – from 5.7% during 2003-2009, to 4.4% during 2010-2013, and down to 3.5% during 2014-2018 – to the faster delivery of tPA. “With faster treatment, there is less ischemic brain and vascular damage and thus a lower likelihood of ICH as a complication of tPA,” he explained.
The Target: Stroke program achieved these gains in speedier thrombolytic treatment (and better recognition of eligible patients) through educational and promotional activities including dissemination of best practices. Notable best practices have included EMS prenotification of hospitals before they arrive with a stroke patient, direct transport of patients to a brain imaging scanner, premix of tPA, initiation of tPA in the brain imaging suite, and prompt data feedback, Dr. Fonarow said.
The Get With The Guidelines-Stroke and Target: Stroke programs now involve more than 2,100 U.S. hospitals, and they are able to deliver emergency care to roughly 70% of U.S. acute ischemic stroke patients, he noted.
With achievement of Target: Stroke’s phase 2 goals, the program
SOURCE: Fonarow GC et al. ISC 2019,