Benefit-risk ratios from recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (rtPA) therapy for acute ischemic stroke demonstrate lack of efficacy if intravenous administration is commenced beyond 3 hours of symptom onset. We undertook to enhance therapeutic effectiveness by ensuring equitable access to rtPA for patients affected by acute ischemic stroke within a 20 000 km(2) population referral base served by a tertiary facility.
Representatives of all provider groups involved in emergency medical services developed a Regional Acute Stroke Protocol (RASP), a coordinated regional system response by dispatch personnel, paramedics, physicians, community service providers, emergency and inpatient staff in community hospitals, and the tertiary facility acute stroke team.
As of July 26, 1999, all ambulance services in Southeastern Ontario began bypassing the closest hospital to deliver patients meeting the criteria for the RASP to the Kingston General Hospital. At 12 months, approximately 403 ischemic strokes have occurred in the region, the RASP has been activated 191 times, and 42 patients have received rtPA.
We conclude that (1) acute stroke patients in Southeastern Ontario have improved access to interventions for stroke care; (2) geography of the region is not a barrier to access to interventions for patients with acute stroke; and (3) acute ischemic stroke patients treated with rtPA account for 5% of all acute strokes and 10% of all ischemic strokes in this region.