Stroke warning campaigns: delivering better patient outcomes? A systematic review.
Patient delay in presenting to hospital with stroke symptoms remains one of the major barriers to thrombolysis treatment, leading to its suboptimal use internationally. Educational interventions such as mass media campaigns and community initiatives aim to reduce patient delays by promoting the signs and symptoms of a stroke, but no consistent evidence exists to show that such interventions result in appropriate behavioral responses to stroke symptoms.
A systematic literature search and narrative synthesis were conducted to examine whether public educational interventions were successful in the reduction of patient delay to hospital presentation with stroke symptoms. Three databases, MEDLINE, CINAHL, and PsycINFO, were searched to identify quantitative studies with measurable behavioral end points, including time to hospital presentation, thrombolysis rates, ambulance use, and emergency department (ED) presentations with stroke.
Fifteen studies met the inclusion criteria: one randomized controlled trial, two time series analyses, three controlled before and after studies, five uncontrolled before and after studies, two retrospective observational studies, and two prospective observational studies. Studies were heterogeneous in quality; thus, meta-analysis was not feasible. Thirteen studies examined prehospital delay, with ten studies reporting a significant reduction in delay times, with a varied magnitude of effect. Eight studies examined thrombolysis rates, with only three studies reporting a statistically significant increase in thrombolysis administration. Five studies examined ambulance usage, and four reported a statistically significant increase in ambulance transports following the intervention. Three studies examining ED presentations reported significantly increased ED presentations following intervention. Public educational interventions varied widely on type, duration, and content, with description of intervention development largely absent from studies, limiting the potential replication of successful interventions.
Positive intervention effects were reported in the majority of studies; however, methodological weaknesses evident in a number of studies limited the generalizability of the observed effects. Reporting of specific intervention design was suboptimal and impeded the identification of key intervention components for reducing patient delay. The parallel delivery of public and professional interventions further limited the identification of successful intervention components. A lack of studies of sound methodological quality using, at a minimum, a controlled before and after design was identified in this review, and thus studies incorporating a rigorous study design are required to strengthen the evidence for public interventions to reduce patient delay in stroke. The potential clinical benefits of public interventions are far-reaching, and the challenge remains in translating knowledge improvements and correct behavioral intentions to appropriate behavior when stroke occurs.