A multi-disciplinary quality improvement project to improve adherence to best practice guidelines for emergency department patients with transient ischemic attack

SHSC-AV-Adhering to TIA Guidelines

Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre (ED)

Background: Canadian Stroke Guidelines recommend that Transient Ischemic Attack (TIA) patients at highest risk of stroke recurrence should undergo immediate vascular imaging. Computed tomography angiography (CTA) of the head and neck is recommended over carotid doppler because it allows for enhanced visualization of the intracranial and posterior circulation vasculature. Imaging while patients are in the emergency department (ED) is optimal for high-risk patients because the risk of stroke recurrence is highest in the first 48 hours. 


Aim Statement: At our hospital, a designated stroke centre, less than 5% of TIA patients meet national recommendations by undergoing CTA in the ED. We sought to increase the rate of CTA in high risk ED TIA patients from less than 5% to at least 80% in 10 months. 


Measures & Design: We used a multi-faceted approach to improve our adherence to guidelines including: 1) education for staff ED physicians; 2) agreements between ED and radiology to facilitate rapid access to CTA; 3) agreements between ED and neurology for consultations regarding patients with abnormal CTA; and 4) the creation of an electronic decision support tool to guide ED physicians as to which patients require CTA. We measured the rate of CTA in high risk patients biweekly using retrospective chart review of patients referred to the TIA clinic from the ED on a biweekly basis. As a balancing measure, we also measured the rate of CTA in non-high risk patients. 


Evaluation/Results: Data collection is ongoing. An interim run chart at 19 weeks shows a complete shift above the median after implementation, with CTA rates between 70 and 100%. At the time of submission, we had no downward trends below 80%, showing sustained improvement. The CTA rate in non-high risk patients did also increase. 


Disucssion/Impact: After 19 weeks of our intervention, 112 (78.9%) of high risk TIA patients had a CTA, compared to 10 (9.8%) in the 19 weeks prior to our intervention. On average, 10-15% of high risk patients will have an identifiable lesion on CTA, leading to immediate change in management (at minimum, an inpatient consultation with neurology). Our multi-faceted approach could be replicated in any ED with the engagement and availability of the same multi-disciplinary team (ED, radiology, and neurology), access to CTA, and electronic orders.


Authors: A. Verma, A. Kapoor, J. Kim, N. Kujbid, K. Si, R. Swartz, E. Etchells, S. Symons and A. Yu

Preliminary data gathering/ baseline