Effects of Telestroke on Thrombolysis Times and Outcomes: A Meta-analysis

Objective: Telestroke systems are tools, used to provide an advanced stroke care in regions without sufficient neurologic services. We performed this meta-analysis to assess the effects of telemedicine on treatment times and clinical outcomes of acute stroke care. Methods: A literature search of PubMed, SCOPUS, and Cochrane CENTRAL was conducted for original studies investigating telemedicine applications in acute stroke care. Dichotomous data on treatment outcomes were pooled as odds ratios (ORs), while continuous data on thrombolysis times were pooled as mean differences (MDs) with 95% confidence interval (CI), using RevMan software (version 5.3). Results: Pooling data from 26 studies (6605 thrombolysed patients) showed no significant differences between the telestroke and control groups in terms of in-hospital mortality (OR = 1.21, 95% CI [0.98, 1.49]), 90-day mortality (OR = 1.08, 95% CI [0.85, 1.37]), symptomatic intracranial hemorrhage (sICH) (OR = 1.10, 95% CI [0.79, 1.53]), and favorable clinical outcome at discharge (OR = 1.03, 95% CI [0.69, 1.53]) and 90 days later (OR = 0.99, 95% CI [0.82, 1.18]). The onset-to-door (OTD) duration (MD = −10.4 minutes, 95% CI [−14.79, −.01]) and length of hospital stay (MD = −0.55 days, 95% CI [−1.02, −0.07]) were significantly shorter in the telestroke group, compared to the control group. Although the overall effect estimate (under the fixed-effect model) showed a significant decrease in the onset-to-treatment (OTT) duration in the telestroke group (MD = −5.83 minutes, 95% CI [−8.57, −3.09]), employing the random-effects model for between-study heterogeneity abolished this significance (MD = −5.90 minutes, 95% CI [−13.23, 1.42]). Conclusion: Telestroke significantly reduced OTD and hospital stay durations in stroke patients without increasing the risk of mortality or sICH. Therefore, telemedicine can improve stroke care in regional areas with minor experience in thrombolysis. Further randomized controlled trials are needed to assess the benefits of telestroke systems, especially in terms of cost-effectiveness and quality of life outcomes.