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Stroke. 2011 Jun;42(6):1697-701. doi: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.110.604736. Epub 2011 May 5.

Understanding reasons for delay in seeking acute stroke care in an underserved urban population.

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Washington Hospital Center Stroke Center, 110 Irving Street, NW, EB-6126, Washington, DC 20010, USA.



Few patients arrive early enough at hospitals to be eligible for emergent stroke treatment. There may be barriers specific to underserved, urban populations that need to be identified before effective educational interventions to reduce delay times can be developed.


A survey of respondents' likely action in a hypothetical stroke situation was given to 253 community volunteers in the catchment areas of a large urban community hospital. Concurrently, 100 structured interviews were conducted in the same hospital with patients with acute stroke or a proxy.


In this predominantly urban, black population, if faced with a hypothetical stroke, 89% of community volunteers surveyed said they would call 911 first, and few felt any of the suggested potential barriers applied to them. However, only 12% of patients with stroke interviewed actually called 911 first (OR, 63.9; 95% CI, 29.5 to 138.2). Instead, 75% called a relative/friend. Eighty-nine percent of patients with stroke reported significant delay in seeking medical attention, and almost half said the reason for the delay was thinking the symptoms were not serious and/or they would self-resolve. For those arriving by ambulance, only 25% did so because they thought it would be faster, whereas 35% cited having no other transportation options.


In this predominantly black urban population, although 89% of community volunteers report the intent of calling 911 during a stroke, only 12% of actual patients with stroke did so. Further research is needed to determine and conquer the barriers between behavioral intent and actual behavior to call 911 for witnessed stroke.

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