A significant advancement in the management of acute ischemic stroke has been the use of the recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (rtPA). French guidelines recommend that stroke patients should be treated in stroke units (SU); however, community hospitals experience practical difficulties in treating their patients because SUs are not sufficient in number. Only one SU is available in the Aquitaine area (southwest of France) and it is located in Bordeaux. To improve quality of care and to provide modern stroke therapy, we decided to assess whether thrombolysis was feasible in our community hospital located in Pau, 200 km from Bordeaux.
Selected patients were treated with rtPA and observed for 24 h in the emergency department. According to French legislation, rtPA therapy was defined as ‘off-label use’. National Institutes of Health stroke scale (NIHSS) was obtained on admission, immediately after treatment and 24 h after treatment.
Results from the first 40 patients are reported in this study. They were treated between September 2004 and June 2006. In total, 1169 patients were admitted for stroke during this period. Outcomes and mortality rates were consistent with experience elsewhere.
According to the local infrastructural criteria and prerequisites described in this study, thrombolysis is a viable and feasible treatment option for stroke patients in emergency departments of French community hospitals. In the absence of an SU, this type of emergency treatment can be used as an alternative until SUs become more numerous throughout the country.