A population-based study of acute stroke and TIA diagnosis

L B Morgenstern, L D Lisabeth, A C Mecozzi, M A Smith, P J Longwell, D A McFarling, J M H Risser
Neurology 2004 March 23, 62 (6): 895-900

BACKGROUND: Acute stroke therapy is heavily dependent on the diagnostic acumen of the physician in the emergency department (ED).

OBJECTIVE: To determine this diagnostic accuracy in a population-based multiethnic stroke study.

METHODS: The Brain Attack Surveillance in Corpus Christi (BASIC) Project prospectively ascertained all acute stroke or TIA cases in an urban Texas county of 313,645 residents without an academic medical center. Cases were validated by board-certified neurologists using source documentation. Case validation was used as the gold standard to compare the diagnosis given by the ED physician.

RESULTS: From January 2000 to August 2002, a total of 13,015 patients were screened. Of these, 1,800 were validated as stroke/TIA. Overall sensitivity of the emergency physician for the BASIC-validated diagnosis was 92%, and positive predictive value was 89%. Of the cases that the emergency physician thought were stroke, 11% were validated as no stroke. In multivariable modeling, motor symptoms was an independent predictor of protection from false-negative ED diagnosis of stroke/TIA (odds ratio [OR] = 0.61; 95% CI 0.41 to 0.89). Protection from false-positive stroke/TIA diagnosis was predicted by sensory symptoms (OR = 0.43; 95% CI 0.28 to 0.66), motor symptoms (OR = 0.44; 95% CI 0.32 to 0.62), and severe neurologic deficit (OR = 0.33; 95% CI 0.14 to 0.78). History of stroke/TIA predicted false-positive stroke diagnosis (OR = 1.72; 95% CI 1.23 to 2.40). The majority of disagreements occurred in patients with generalized neurologic or acute medical, nonneurologic syndromes.

CONCLUSIONS: Physicians practicing in the ED are sensitive for stroke/TIA diagnosis. The modest positive predictive value argues for a systems approach with neurology support so that proper decisions regarding acute stroke therapy can be made.

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