Help‐seeking behaviour and subsequent patient and system delays in stroke


Prehospital delay is the main reason why only a limited number of stroke patients receive reperfusion therapy. We aimed to investigate help-seeking behaviour in patients and bystanders after onset of stroke and subsequent patient and system delay.

Materials & Methods

We conducted a cross-sectional study of 332 patients with stroke. We performed structured interviews and used data from the medical records and the Danish Stroke Registry. Primary outcomes were patient delay and system delay.


The median patient delay was 280 min, and the median system delay was 97 min. For a patient delay of <3 h, an additional non-significant system delay of median 30 min was seen for a first contact to a general practitioner (GP), and an additional significant delay of median 490 min was seen for the small group of patients with a first contact to ‘other’ healthcare professionals compared to the Emergency Medical Services (EMS). For a patient delay of more than 3 h, an additional system delay of median 78 min was found when the first contact was directed to the out-of-hours primary care (OOH-PC). A total of 17% of patients were admitted to another hospital or department before arrival at the stroke centre; this resulted in a substantially prolonged system delay of a median of 431 min.


Patient delay remains the main reason for delayed arrival at the stroke centre. Appropriate help-seeking behaviour and efficient pre-hospital triage are essential for reducing the prehospital delay and increasing the proportion of patients receiving reperfusion therapy.

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