Background and Purpose: Mechanical thrombectomy has dramatically increased patient volumes transferred to comprehensive stroke centers (CSCs), resulting in transfer denials for patients who need higher level of care only available at a CSC. We hypothesized that a distributive stroke network (DSN), triaging low severity acute stroke patients to a primary stroke center (PSC) upon initial telestroke consultation, would safely reduce transfer denials, thereby providing additional volume to treat severe strokes at a CSC. Methods: In 2017, a DSN was implemented, in which mild stroke patients were centrally triaged, via telestroke consultation, to a PSC based upon a simple clinical severity algorithm, while higher acuity/severity strokes were triaged to the CSC. In an observational cohort study, data on acute ischemic stroke patients presenting to regional community hospitals were collected pre- versus post-DSN implementation. Safety outcomes and rate of CSC transfer denials were compared pre-DSN versus post-DSN. Results: The pre-DSN cohort (n=150), triaged to the CSC, had a similar rate of symptomatic intracerebral hemorrhage and discharge location compared with the post-DSN cohort (n=150), triaged to the PSC. Time to stroke unit admission was faster post-DSN (2 hours 40 minutes) versus pre-DSN (3 hours 29 minutes; P<0.001). Transfer denials were reduced post-DSN (3.8%) versus pre-DSN (1.8%; P=0.02), despite an increase in telestroke consultation volume over the same period (median, 3 calls per day pre-DSN versus 5 calls per day post-DSN; P=0.001). No patients who were triaged to the PSC required subsequent transfer to the CSC. Conclusions: A DSN, triaging mild ischemic stroke patients from community hospitals to a PSC, safely reduced transfer denials to the CSC, allowing greater capacity at the CSC to treat higher acuity stroke patients.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2671-2675
Number of pages5
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2021


  • cohort studies
  • ischemic stroke
  • patient discharge
  • telemedicine
  • triage


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