Criteria-based dispatch of emergency medical services in non–traumatic subarachnoid haemorrhage

Asger Sonne, Jesper Borg Andersen, Vagn Eskesen, Freddy Knudsen Lippert, Frans Boch Waldorff, Christine Winther Bang, Volkert Siersma, Nicolai Lohse, Lars Simon Rasmussen

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Introduction: Timely admission to a facility capable of providing highly specialised treatment is key in patients with spontaneous subarachnoid haemorrhage. We aimed to determine the time elapsed from the initial emergency telephone call to arrival at a neurosurgical department. Also, we aimed to determine the ambulance dispatch criteria used and the activated prehospital responses.

Methods: This was a retrospective study. Patients admitted in the Capital Region of Denmark within a 3.5-year period were identified in the Danish National Patient Register. Data were extracted from medical records and from automated telephone logs at the Emergency Medical Dispatch Centre.

Results: Time intervals were available in 124 out of 262 patients and ambulance dispatch criteria in 98 patients. The median time from call to neurosurgical admission was 207.5 minutes. The dispatch criterion sudden severe headache had a sensitivity of 17.4%. An ambulance with lights and sirens was dispatched to 77% of patients and 28% were brought directly to a hospital with neurosurgical facilities.

Conclusions: The median time from emergency call to neurosurgical admission was 3.5 hours. No single dispatch criterion detected the condition with an acceptable sensitivity. A high proportion of patients received an ambulance with lights and sirens, but more than two out of three were not initially brought to a hospital with neurosurgical facilities.

Funding: the non-profit organisation Trygfonden

Trial registration: NCT03786068 (
Original languageEnglish
Article numberA02210152
JournalDanish Medical Journal
Issue number9
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2021


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