BACKGROUND: Treatment for stroke is time-dependent, and ambulance services play a vital role in the early recognition, assessment and transportation of stroke patients. Innovations which begin in ambulance services to expedite delivery of treatments for stroke are developing. However, research delivery in ambulance services is novel, developing and not fully understood.
AIMS: To synthesise literature encompassing ambulance service-based randomised controlled interventions for acute stroke with consideration to the characteristics of the type of intervention, consent modality, time intervals and issues unique to research delivery in ambulance services. Online searches of MEDLINE, EMBASE, Web of Science, CENTRAL and WHO IRCTP databases and hand searches identified 15 eligible studies from 538. Articles were heterogeneous in nature and meta-analysis was partially available as 13 studies reported key time intervals, but terminology varied. Randomised interventions were evident across all points of contact with ambulance services: identification of stroke during the call for help, higher dispatch priority assigned to stroke, on-scene assessment and clinical interventions, direct referral to comprehensive stroke centres and definitive care delivery at scene. Consent methods ranged between informed patient, waiver and proxy modalities with country-specific variation. Challenges unique to the prehospital setting comprise the geographical distribution of ambulance resources, low recruitment rates, prolonged recruitment phases, management of investigational medicinal product and incomplete datasets.
CONCLUSION: Research opportunities exist across all points of contact between stroke patients and ambulance services, but randomisation and consent remain novel. Early collaboration and engagement between trialists and ambulance services will alleviate some of the complexities reported.
REGISTRATION NUMBER: PROSPERO 2018CRD42018075803.