In the rural United States, patients with stroke are usually first evaluated locally by a nonneurologist physician (NNP) before treatment is determined.
To determine the evolution of NNPs' familiarity and attitudes about using recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (rtPA) since this therapy has been approved.
Cross-sectional design using 2 similar surveys mailed in 1997 and 2003 to all primary care, family, internal, and emergency medicine physicians in the state of Iowa (1582 and 1679 physicians, respectively).
All NNPs (primary care, internal, and emergency medicine) practicing in the state of Iowa.
Main Outcome Measures
Comparison of 1997 and 2003 aggregate responses to questions about familiarity and willingness to use rtPA to treat patients who have had an acute ischemic stroke.
The willingness of NNPs to use rtPA to treat acute ischemic stroke increased from 18% to 32% between 1997 and 2003. The number of NNPs who were very familiar with the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale increased from 1% to 13%. Compared with physicians in 1997, more physicians in 2003 knew that prolonged international normalized ratios (42% vs 61%) or excessively high blood pressures (61% vs 78%) were contraindications for the use of rtPA. Still, half of the respondents perceived that they were inadequately exposed to educational material about rtPA during these years. Most expressed preference for personal methods of delivery for future educational efforts.
The familiarity and comfort among NNPs with the administration of rtPA is still relatively low in rural settings. The improvement observed between the years 1997 and 2003 is encouraging. The responses suggest that NNPs' acceptance of rtPA can be further improved with educational campaigns involving personal methods of delivery.