Background: Stroke is among the leading causes of mortality and permanent disability in the world. Iran is located in the stroke belt and has a high age-adjusted stroke incidence rate. In this multistep prospective qualitative study, we aimed at investigating the status and challenges of stroke management in Iran and explore possible solutions.
Methods: In the first and second phase, we attempted to define the status of stroke management in Iran by searching the relevant literature and conducting semi-structured interviews with health-care providers in thirteen hospitals located in seven large cities in Iran. In the third phase, we tried to recommend possible solutions based on international standards and experience, as well as interviews with stroke experts in Iran and the United States.
Results: Little public awareness of stroke symptoms and its urgency, low prioritization for stroke management, and an inadequate number of stroke-ready hospitals are some of the major obstacles toward timely treatment of stroke in Iran. Every hospital in our pool except two hospitals had guideline-based algorithms for the administration of intravenous thrombolysis. However, there was no single call activation system for stroke alert. Data from some of the centers showed that hospital arrival of stroke patients to final decision-making took 116-160 minutes. Although there were four endovascular programs in our target areas, there was no center with 24-hour coverage.
Conclusion: There are many challenges as well as potentials for improvement of stroke care in Iran. Improving public knowledge of stroke and establishing an organized and comprehensive stroke program in the hospitals will improve acute stroke management in Iran. The Iranian ministry of health should define and advocate the establishment of stroke centers, track the rate of death and disability from stroke, introduce pathways to improve the quality of stroke care through national data monitoring systems, and eliminate disparities in stroke care.