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Original research
Travel time and distance for bypass and non-bypass routing of stroke patients in the USA


Background Endovascular thrombectomy is not available at all hospitals that offer intravenous thrombolysis, prompting debate regarding the preferred transport destination for acute ischemic stroke. This study aimed to quantify real-world travel time and distance of bypass and non-bypass transport models for large-vessel occlusion (LVO) and non-LVO stroke.

Methods This cross-sectional study included population data of census tracts in the contiguous USA from the 2014–2018 United States Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, stroke (thrombolysis-capable) and thrombectomy-capable centers certified by a state or national body, and road network data from a mapping service. Census tracts were categorized by urbanization level. Data were retrieved from March to November 2020. Travel times and distances were calculated for each census tract to each of the following: nearest stroke center (nearest), nearest thrombectomy-capable center (bypass), and nearest stroke center then to the nearest thrombectomy-capable center (transfer). Population-weighted median and IQR were calculated nationally and by urbanization.

Results 72 538 census tracts, 2388 stroke hospitals, and 371 thrombectomy-capable centers were included. Nationally, population-weighted median travel time for nearest and bypass routing was 11.7 min (IQR 7.7–19.3) and 26.4 min (14.8–55.1), respectively. For transfer routing, the population-weighted median travel times with 60 min, 90 min, and 120 min door-in-door-out times were 94.1 min (78.5–127.7), 124.1 min (108.5–157.7), and 154.1 min (138.4–187.6), respectively.

Conclusions Bypass routing offers modest travel time benefits for LVO patients and incurs modest penalties for non-LVO patients. Differences are greatest in rural areas. A majority of Americans live in areas for which current guidelines recommend bypass.

  • Stroke
  • Thrombectomy
  • Brain

Data availability statement

Data are available upon reasonable request.

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