Drip and Ship Thrombolytic Therapy for Acute Ischemic Stroke
Use, Temporal Trends, and Outcomes
Background and Purpose—Interhospital transfer after use of intravenous tissue-type plasminogen activator (tPA) in acute stroke (drip and ship) is increasingly frequent. Small studies have suggested that drip and ship tPA is safe and increases rates of tPA use; however, little is known about real-world practice patterns. We sought to evaluate temporal trends in drip and ship tPA use and to compare the patient and hospital characteristics with that of conventional (front door) thrombolysis.
Methods—We analyzed data from 44 667 patients with ischemic stroke treated with intravenous tPA ≤3 hours of symptom onset in the Get With The Guidelines-Stroke program from April 2003 to October 2010 in 1440 hospitals. The main outcomes were the frequency of drip and ship tPA use over time, the characteristics of patients treated, and in-hospital outcomes, treatments, and complications.
Results—Among 44 667 patients treated with tPA, the drip and ship method was a common method (n=10 475; 23.5%), the use of which increased in parallel with the traditional tPA method over time. Patients treated by the drip and ship method differed significantly from front-door patients, with lower National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale scores when recorded (n=35 467). Crude in-hospital mortality (10.9%) and symptomatic intracranial hemorrhage (5.7%) in patients treated by the drip and ship method were slightly higher compared with those in front-door patients, and these differences persisted after risk adjustment.
Conclusions—Drip and ship tPA is common, used in 1 in 4 patients treated with tPA in the United States. Modest differences in mortality and symptomatic intracranial hemorrhage may be because of patient selection bias, post-tPA care differences, or unmeasured confounding. The drip and ship paradigm may facilitate widespread tPA use in patients with acute stroke.
- Received September 19, 2014.
- Revision received November 17, 2014.
- Accepted December 2, 2014.
- © 2015 American Heart Association, Inc.