Emergency physicians: Accuracy in the diagnosis of stroke

Rashmi U. Kothari, Thomas Brott, Joseph P. Broderick, Cathy A. Hamilton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

112 Scopus citations


Background and Purpose: The role of emergency physicians in trials of acute stroke therapy is expanding. We investigated the ability of emergency physicians to accurately identify patients with stroke. Methods: We reviewed all 446 patients who were evaluated in the emergency department and had an inpatient admitting or discharge diagnosis of ischemic or hemorrhagic stroke from May 1, 1992, to June 30, 1993. The final admitting diagnosis made by the emergency physician was compared with the final hospital discharge diagnosis, 95% of which were made by neurologists or neurosurgeons. Results: All 76 patients with a final discharge diagnosis of intracerebral or subarachnoid hemorrhage were correctly diagnosed by the emergency physicians (sensitivity, 100%; positive predictive value, 100%). Of the 351 patients with a final discharge diagnosis of ischemic stroke or transient ischemic attack, 346 were correctly identified by the emergency physicians (sensitivity, 98.6%; positive predictive value, 94.8%). Nineteen patients were diagnosed with stroke or transient ischemic attack by the emergency physician but had a final discharge diagnosis other than stroke. Discharge diagnoses included paresthesia or numbness of unknown causes (3), seizure (2), complicated migraine (2), peripheral neuropathy (2), cranial nerve neuropathy (2), psychogenic paralysis (1), and other (7). Conclusions: Emergency physicians at a large urban teaching hospital with a comprehensive stroke intervention program can accurately identify patients with stroke, particularly hemorrhagic stroke. If similar accuracy can be documented in other types of hospitals, emergency physicians may become key providers of urgent stroke intervention.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2238-2241
Number of pages4
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1995


  • cerebral infarction
  • computed tomography
  • diagnosis
  • emergency medical services
  • stroke assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Neurology
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Advanced and Specialized Nursing


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