Emergency medical dispatchers’ ability to identify large vessel occlusion stroke during emergency calls

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Background: In acute ischemic stroke, conjugated eye deviation (CED) is an evident sign of cortical ischemia and large vessel occlusion (LVO). We aimed to determine if an emergency dispatcher can recognise LVO stroke during an emergency call by asking the caller a binary question regarding whether the patient’s head or gaze is away from the side of the hemiparesis or not. Further, we investigated if the paramedics can confirm this sign at the scene. In the group of positive CED answers to the emergency dispatcher, we investigated what diagnoses these patients received at the emergency department (ED). Among all patients brought to ED and subsequently treated with mechanical thrombectomy (MT) we tracked the proportion of patients with a positive CED answer during the emergency call. Methods: We collected data on all stroke dispatches in the city of Tampere, Finland, from 13 February 2019 to 31 October 2020. We then reviewed all patient records from cases where the dispatcher had marked ‘yes’ to the question regarding patient CED in the computer-aided emergency response system. We also viewed all emergency department admissions to see how many patients in total were treated with MT during the period studied. Results: Out of 1913 dispatches, we found 81 cases (4%) in which the caller had verified CED during the emergency call. Twenty-four of these patients were diagnosed with acute ischemic stroke. Paramedics confirmed CED in only 9 (11%) of these 81 patients. Two patients with positive CED answers during the emergency call and 19 other patients brought to the emergency department were treated with MT. Conclusion: A small minority of stroke dispatches include a positive answer to the CED question but paramedics rarely confirm the emergency medical dispatcher’s suspicion of CED as a sign of LVO. Few patients in need of MT can be found this way. Stroke dispatch protocol with a CED question needs intensive implementation.




Vuorinen, P. E. T., Ollikainen, J. P. J., Ketola, P. A., Vuorinen, R. L. K., Setälä, P. A., & Hoppu, S. E. (2021). Emergency medical dispatchers’ ability to identify large vessel occlusion stroke during emergency calls. Scandinavian Journal of Trauma, Resuscitation and Emergency Medicine, 29(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13049-021-00914-1

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