Get with the Guidelines (GWTG) – Stroke Patient Registry Use in Primary and Comprehensive Designated Stroke Centers during COVID-19 Pandemic

This year many of the professional conferences that traditionally took place live have had to change to virtual mode due to the global COVID-19 pandemic and its related social distancing rules.  The International Stroke Conference and Nursing Symposium was no exception. Yet it presented an excellent opportunity for many to attend, especially those who could not have joined the conference in-person had the opportunity to participate virtually.  Healthcare professionals, academicians, researchers, and supporters of stroke prevention were able to join from different places in the world, under different time zones. There were many options for participants to engage and interact in the many discussions and presentations through the online platform.

Earlier I had the opportunity to write about various topics presented during the #ISC21 (you can read them here: “Reducing Disparities through Diversity and Inclusion in Stroke Science, Clinical Trial Enrollment, and Community Engagement”; “Transformation of the GWTG – Stroke Patient Registry to into a National Representative Database of Acute Ischemic Strokes (AIS) in the U.S.”).

Today, I wanted to interview a couple of conference participants who could share with you about their experience attending this virtual conference. I also wanted them to share with you their experience with the GWTG Stroke Registry and the prevention of stroke in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. My guests for this post-conference interview are Ms. Jessilyn Pozo, Baptist Health South Florida System-Wide Stroke Program Manager, and Dawntray Radford, Stroke Coordinator for South Miami Hospital (You can follow them for more information here).  This transcript is a lightly edited version of the interview we conducted on webcam, shortly after the 2021 International Stroke Conference.

Catherina: How was your experience at the 2021 International Stroke Conference (ISC) delivered in virtual mode?

Dawntray: The International Stroke Conference was definitely different this year. However, I was appreciative that they (AHA) were able to extend the sessions’ timeframe so that we would be able to take a deeper dive, engage in deeper discussions opposed to the 10-15 minute sessions that we normally would have (in a live conference).  I think I got a lot more information (from the presentations and discussions), especially within the different scheduled presentations.  Therefore, I think there was an added bonus of extending the sessions’ timeframe.


Dawntray Radford, BSN, RN Stroke Coordinator South Miami Hospital


Jessilyn: This is my second time attending ISC. I went last year to Los Angeles for it. Although I do like the live version more, I liked that we were able to see lectures recorded and delivered on-demand. There were a lot of interesting topics this year, specifically hot topics with Tenecteplase1, which many hospitals are leaning towards converting its use. There were different topics like the nursing care guidelines, and reports from recent studies released.  We were able to take many good notes, and we were able to pause and write down things and keep going with the lectures.  I really enjoyed attending the conference, but I am excited for it to be live next year.



Jessilyn Pozo, BSN, RN, SCRN BHSF System-Wide Stroke Program Manager Baptist Hospital of Miami


Catherina: How would you describe your role in the stroke program at your organization?

Jessilyn: I oversee the stroke program for the Baptist Health system. Baptist Hospital of Miami is our comprehensive center. Dawntray Redford runs the South Miami Hospital stroke program, which is a primary stroke center, certified by the Joint Commission.2  She worked tirelessly to get it certified with no Requests for Improvements (RIFs).  So kudos to her! We are working with West Kendall Baptist Hospital to become a primary stroke center. We are working to have a few of our other entities to be acute stroke ready. We have oversight of the stroke program at each individual entity and as a system to provide standardized great stroke care for all patients.

Catherina: Please tell us Ms. Radford about your role in the stroke program at South Miami Hospital.

Dawntray: We went through our first initial certification as a primary stroke center.  There are a lot of moving parts in the program that we need to monitor.  In addition to providing care, since we are a primary stroke center, there is an urgency of transferring stroke patients to the comprehensive center.  This shows to our community and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) that we have the capabilities of readily identifying the acute stroke patients when they arrive and transferring them out at a target time of sixty minutes. Based on the feedback we received from the certification survey by the Joint Commission, it was very impressive! Because of the national times, the average goal is to push for at least 90 minutes.   The literature suggests and has proven (benefits) from taking about 2 hours to 3 hours to actually have a patient transferred out to an equipped hospital.  Emergency medical services (EMS) had tried to propose to bypass the primary stroke centers and go to the comprehensive one. They did not want these two-to-three-hour delays of the patient transferred because of so many logistics of trying to transfer a patient from one hospital to another system, as we had to go through that transfer process.  With the streamlined process at our Institute, the Miami Neuroscience Institute, we have our own streamlined process and our dedicated transfer center.  We can actually execute our transfers in sixty minutes.  We worked very hard with our internal system of identifying patients before they even arrived to our institution. We are having that proactive approach of readily identifying that patient that has that large vessel occlusion. We already have a transfer center in place before the patient even arrives. This would make our numbers soar to that target timeframe for patients to get excellent stroke care.  During our certification survey, we got compliments on our timeframe, less than the 90-minute-to-120-minutes timeframe, as we probably may be set back a new benchmark for the nation.

Catherina: What are the benefits of the GWTG Stroke Registry at your organizations?

Jessilyn: We are very lucky to have a data analyst team that is driven and just solely dedicated to the management of our stroke data. They are the ones who check on our stroke alert times; make these dashboards with turnaround times that they input in Get With The Guidelines. The Get With The Guidelines Stroke Registry helps us to stay on track.  It keeps us on our toes, making sure that we meet the (stroke) goals.  We aim to provide the care that we need to (deliver to stroke patients) based on the guidelines and the standards.  This (registry data) allows for feedback on how our programs are doing.

Dawntray: The use of The Get With The Guidelines at South Miami Hospital is imperative, especially with the fact that we have different stroke units. The staff at the stroke units would like to see how they are doing as an individual unit, so they know where they need to improve individually as opposed to the hospital as a whole.  Especially with the Emergency Department, their metrics would be different from the metrics of an inpatient unit.   At least with the registry, I could take the different core quality measures and give the appropriate information specific to their unit.  I use the registry 100% to monitor our quality measures and performance improvement measures.

Catherina: What has been your experience with stroke patients seeking stroke care in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic?

Dawntray:  We definitely have seen a decrease in the volume of care, especially with EMS and the patients that walk in.  Eighty percent of our patients would arrive by their private vehicles. Many patients did not come through EMS during the pandemic.  We noticed at least 50% change in our volume for at least the first two months of the COVID pandemic.  We have also seen an increase in ischemic strokes with clots, with occlusive strokes in patients that were positive for COVID. They developed COVID first.  The developed stroke as a secondary diagnosis.

Jessilyn: From the comprehensive center standpoint, being like the hub of the system, we have seen internal patient transfers from our sister hospitals. These patients were initially admitted for COVID care. They developed an acute ischemic stroke and were transferred over for neuro intervention.  Unfortunately, these have been the trickiest patients. They were on the younger side, ended up being hypercoagulable. Our interventionalists are amazing! However, they do say it is more difficult, they find more clots. It is not just one. They seem to find several clots.  These patients also tend to reocclude, even though they have had a successful thrombectomy. Therefore, I think COVID has really posed quite a challenge in stroke care for all.

Catherina: What suggestions do you have for healthcare professionals in educating patients about the prevention of stroke, especially during this COVID-19 pandemic?

Jessilyn: I think one of the biggest issues in stroke is that as high as it is, 80% of the strokes are preventable. Stroke should probably be out of the top 10 issues that are the cause of mortality in our nation or in the world.  A lot of it has to do with the fact that people do not recognize the symptoms.  It also has to do with getting them in here (hospital) for early treatment.  We have those 24 hours for them to be a possible candidate for stroke care.  A lot of them do not just even recognize the symptoms or the risk factors of stroke.  They do not understand things that they just do in their daily life, that if they were to change one of these minute things, it can help them decrease their risk of stroke and relieve them from possible debilitating life symptoms.

Dawntray: (During the pandemic) we reached out to our marketing department.  We have a Facebook page where we have a post on Fridays.  (We posted) on recognition of the signs of early stroke: FAST: Face, Arm, Speech, Time of recognizing stroke, calling 911.   We also had information on what (symptoms) to look for.  We had a message built in to the post as well, stating that, “we know that you may be afraid to come in, that you want to stay at home, but you choose to be aware of, of not being afraid to seek services, to come in to the hospital where it is safe.”   “We take a lot of preventative measures to protect ourselves and to the community during the pandemic”.   We are just letting them know what the signs and symptoms were and not to be afraid to come in and to seek care (at the hospital).   We are just giving them that comfort that it is safe to come into the hospital.  Because that is what they feel… it was not safe, so they were afraid to come in (during the pandemic).

Catherina: Thank you for the opportunity to interview you and look forward to the next ICS conference.  Anything that you would like to share out there with stroke coordinators, any advice or word of guidance?

Jessilyn: Just hang in there.

Dawntray: You have to be inventive. Just know that a pandemic cannot hinder you from providing the care that you provide every day.   You just have to be creative, find a better way, a different way of still executing what you do on a daily basis.

I would like to thank Ms. Jessilyn Pozo and Ms. Dawntray Redford for sharing their experiences during this 2021 Virtual International Stroke conference as well as their experiences with the GWTG Stroke Registry, Primary and Comprehensive Stroke Program, and stroke prevention during the COVID-19 pandemic. For more information, you can reach them at [email protected] and [email protected]



  1. Warach SJ, Dula AN, Milling TJ Jr. Tenecteplase Thrombolysis for Acute Ischemic Stroke. Stroke. 2020;51(11):3440-3451. doi:10.1161/STROKEAHA.120.029749
  2. The Joint Commission. Primary Stroke Center Certification. (2021). Retrieved from https://www.jointcommission.org/accreditation-and-certification/certification/certifications-by-setting/hospital-certifications/stroke-certification/advanced-stroke/primary-stroke-center/
  3. American Heart Association. Get with the Guidelines Stroke Registry. (2021). Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/en/professional/quality-improvement/get-with-the-guidelines/get-with-the-guidelines-stroke

“The views, opinions and positions expressed within this blog are those of the author(s) alone and do not represent those of the American Heart Association. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them. The Early Career Voice blog is not intended to provide medical advice or treatment. Only your healthcare provider can provide that. The American Heart Association recommends that you consult your healthcare provider regarding your personal health matters. If you think you are having a heart attack, stroke or another emergency, please call 911 immediately.”





Effects of COVID-19 on Acute Ischaemic Stroke care: Comparative insights from Get With The Guidelines-Stroke registry

Much like acute myocardial infarctions, the optimal management of acute ischaemic stroke (AIS) is extremely time-sensitive. The foundation of favorable outcomes of AIS lies in the timely presentation and acute intervention by means of either intravenous thrombolysis and mechanical thrombectomy. Especially earlier on during the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a concern regarding a decline in non-COVID acute medical admissions, as well as hospital-based challenges to appropriate and timely delivery of acute stroke care.

A study led by Dr Pratyaksh Srivastava and colleagues, published in Stroke, uses data from the American Heart Association (AHA)’s Get With The Guidelines Stroke (GWTG-Stroke)® registry, to compare characteristics, treatment patterns, and in-hospital outcomes of 81,084 patients over two time periods: before COVID and after the first reported case of COVID-19 (1). The AHA’s GWTG-Stroke registry is a validated and reliable national registry of adults with stroke in the United States (2,3). This blog provides a brief summary of the key findings of this analysis.

The study cohort and comparisons:

81,084 AIS patients were included over a period extending from 01st November 2019 to 29th June 2020, from among 458 participating hospitals with at least one positive COVID-19 patient. They were divided into two groups, according to the first reported case of COVID-19 in the registry. The pre-COVID group consisting of 39,113 patients (01st November 2019 to 3rd February 2020) and the during COVID group, consisting of 41,971 patients (4th February 2020 to 29th June 2020).

The two groups were compared for characteristics, treatment patterns, and outcomes. These analyses were repeated in sensitivity analyses, comparing a later during COVID-19 time period (1st April 2020 to 29th June 2020) to the same pre-COVID-19 time period. There were no differences in general characteristics among patients of the two time periods. 48.8% of the cohort were women. 61.9% were White. 2.7% of patients in the during COVID-19 group had a diagnosis of COVID-19.

Key findings from the study & implications:

There was a 15.3% average reduction of stroke presentations per week in the during-COVID-time period (3rd February 2020 to 24th May 2020) when compared with similar months in 2019. This is perhaps a reflection of general trends (4,5) in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic, partially reflecting an anticipated lack of capacity in overburdened health systems, the effect of shelters in place and social distancing disorders (5), and patients delaying or avoiding seeking medical care due to concerns of contracting COVID-19(6).

Treatment patterns:

Similar rates of acute interventions for AIS were observed in pre-COVID and during-COVID time periods. There were no differences in rates of intravenous alteplase (11.7% vs. 11.4%, p=0.26) or endovascular therapy (10.2% vs. 10.1%, p=0.90) pre- and during COVID respectively.

Furthermore, there were also no additional delays in administering care. Median door to needle times (46 [32-65] minutes vs 46 [33-64] minutes; p= 0.69) and door to endovascular times (86 [53-129] minutes vs 90 [54-134] minutes; p=0.06) were not different between the pre-COVID and during COVID periods respectively. This is crucial and encouraging data, given the time-sensitive nature of acute stroke care and the delays that were anticipated during the COVID-19 period, from having to don personal protective equipment (PPE).

Also, door to computed tomography (CT) time was slightly shorter during the COVID-19 time period (median 35 [14-100] vs 37 [15-111] mins, p<0.001). A significant uptake of telestroke consult was observed during the COVID-19 period as compared with pre-COVID (6.0% vs 7.1%; p <0.0001).

GWTG-Stroke quality measures: 

Slight decreases were observed in rates of timely IV alteplase administration, prescription of antithrombotics at discharge, dysphagia screen, smoking cessation counseling, stroke education, and rehabilitation consideration in the during-COVID-19 group.  Despite this, these quality measures remained above the 85% target, suggesting the maintenance of quality care during the pandemic.


Adjusted inpatient mortality of AIS was similar between pre- and during COVID-19 periods (4.8% vs. 5.2%; odd ratio 1.05, 95% CI 0.97-1.13), consistent with prior published studies (5,7). Also, in these adjusted models, no significant differences were observed for other outcomes such as symptomatic intracranial hemorrhage among IV alteplase patients, venous thromboembolism or pulmonary embolism during hospitalization.

In terms of patients’ disposition, there were reduced odds of discharge to skilled nursing facility (OR 0.78, 95% CI 0.74-0.82) and of a hospital stay >4 days during COVID-19 time period (OR 0.84, 95% CI 0.81-0.87), and increased odds of discharge to hospice (1.12, 95% CI 1.03- 1.21), and to home (OR 1.12, 95% CI 1.09-1.16) during COVID-19 period. These possibly reflect a hesitancy towards prolonged hospital stays, competing pressures on beds and skilled facilities, and tendency to triage away from high-risk environments.

Sensitivity analyses:

Apart from a slightly longer, and perhaps clinically insignificant, time from door to endovascular treatment in the later during COVID-19 group, findings remained largely similar in sensitivity analyses comparing those presenting in the later COVID-19 time period to those presenting pre-COVID-19.


Given its retrospective, observational nature, this study is limited in its ability to only evaluate, but not infer causality, with descriptive statistics performed being hypothesis generating. Not all data were complete and the observed decline in AIS patients during the pandemic may be due to lags in data entry. Furthermore, these findings may not be generalizable to hospitals that differ from GWTG-Stroke and international cohorts.

Key take-home message:

Despite an observed 15.3 % average decline in AIS presentations during the pandemic, this analysis from the GWTG-Stroke registry demonstrates preserved AIS care quality in the pre- and during COVID-19 time periods with similar door to needle, and door to endovascular times, similar rates of IV alteplase therapy, endovascular therapy, and adjusted in-hospital mortality.

For more latest science on Stroke and Neurology, be sure to register and attend the International Stroke Conference – happening now!


  1. Srivastava PK, Zhang S, Xian Y, et al. Acute Ischemic Stroke in Patients With COVID-19: An Analysis From Get With The Guidelines–Stroke. Stroke. 2021;52:00–00. DOI: 10.1161/STROKEAHA.121.034301
  2. Ormseth CH, Sheth KN, Saver JL, Fonarow GC and Schwamm LH. The American Heart Association’s Get With the Guidelines (GWTG)-Stroke development and impact on stroke care. Stroke Vasc Neurol. 2017;2:94-105
  3. Xian Y, Fonarow GC, Reeves MJ, Webb LE, Blevins J, Demyanenko VS, et al. Data quality in the American Heart Association Get With The Guidelines-Stroke (GWTG-Stroke): results from a national data validation audit. Am Heart J. 2012;163:392-8, 398 e1.
  4. Diegoli H, Magalhaes PSC, Martins SCO, Moro CHC, Franca PHC, Safanelli J, Nagel V, Venancio VG, Liberato RB and Longo AL. Decrease in Hospital Admissions for Transient Ischemic Attack, Mild, and Moderate Stroke During the COVID-19 Era. Stroke. 2020;51:2315-2321.
  5. Nguyen-Huynh MN, Tang XN, Vinson DR, Flint AC, Alexander JG, Meighan M, Burnett M,Sidney S and Klingman JG. Acute Stroke Presentation, Care, and Outcomes in Community  Hospitals in Northern California During the COVID-19 Pandemic. Stroke. 2020;51:2918-2924
  6. American College of Emergency Physicians. Public Poll: Emergency Care Concerns Amidst COVID-19 https://wwwemergencyphysiciansorg/article/covid19/public-poll-emergency care-concerns-amidst-covid-19. 2020.
  7. Tejada Meza H, Lambea Gil Á, Sancho Saldaña A, Martínez-Zabaleta M, Garmendia Lopetegui E, López-Cancio Martínez E, et al; NORDICTUS Investigators. Impact of COVID-19 outbreak in reperfusion therapies of acute ischaemic stroke in northwest Spain. Eur J Neurol. 2020;27(12):2491-2498.


“The views, opinions and positions expressed within this blog are those of the author(s) alone and do not represent those of the American Heart Association. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them. The Early Career Voice blog is not intended to provide medical advice or treatment. Only your healthcare provider can provide that. The American Heart Association recommends that you consult your healthcare provider regarding your personal health matters. If you think you are having a heart attack, stroke or another emergency, please call 911 immediately.”


The Great Terror of Oral Anticoagulant Use: Intracerebral hemorrhage

I am pleased to summarize a recent paper published by Dr. Xian Et.al on the clinical characteristics and outcomes associated with oral anticoagulants (OAC) use among patients hospitalized with intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH)1.

Major question addressed in the paper: 

What is the association between prior oral anticoagulant use (FXa inhibitor, Warfarin or none) and in-hospital outcomes among patients with nontraumatic ICH?


The investigators used the American Heart Association Stroke Association Get with The Guidelines-Stroke (GWTG-Stroke) registry to evaluate patients between October 2013 and May 2018, that had experience non-traumatic ICH with preceding use of FXa inhibitor compared with warfarin or none.  Patients with subarachnoid hemorrhage, subdural hematoma, or taking dabigatran were excluded. Included patients were defined by documentation ICH and use for at least 7 days of OAC, in three different groups: FXa inhibitor (rivaroxaban, apixaban, edoxaban); warfarin, or no use of OAC prior to hospital arrival and ICH.

Main outcomes and measures:

  • Primary outcome: In-hospital mortality
  • Secondary outcome: Composite of in-hospital mortality or discharge to hospice, discharge home, independent ambulation, and modified Rankin Scale (mRS) score at discharge.



  • Of 219,701 patients in the study, 104,940 were women (47.8%), 189,069 were not taking any OAC prior to ICH (86%), 9202 were taking FXa Inhibitors (4.2%), and 21,430 (9.8%) were taking warfarin.
  • One third of patients were taking concomitant antiplatelet therapy. This was more prevalent amongst patients taking FXa inhibitor (27%) and warfarin (30.1%) than those without taking OAC (24.8%).
  • NIHSS median score was 9 amongst the three groups. Patients taking warfarin had a higher mean NIHSS (12.5 {SD:11.3}).

Major results

  • FXa inhibitors (aOR: 1.27; p<0.001) and warfarin (aOR: 1.67; p<0.001) were associated with greater odds of in-hospital mortality compared with no OAC.
  • FXa inhibitors (aOR: 1.19; p<0.001) and warfarin (aOR: 1.50; p<0.001) were associated with greater odds of death or discharge to hospice compared with no OAC.
  • Patients with FXa were less likely to die (aOR 0.76; p<0.001) or be discharged to hospice (0.79; p<0.001) compared to those taking Warfarin.
  • Patients taking FXa were more likely to be discharged at home (aOR1.18; p<0.001) and have better mRS scores at discharge (aOR 1.24; p<0.001).
  • No statistical difference was found amongst the three groups regarding rates of discharge home, independent ambulation, or mRS score.
  • The use of single or dual antiplatelet, in patients taking warfarin was associated with higher odds of in-hospital mortality (aOR 2.07; p<0.001), and dead or discharge to hospice (aOR 1.86; p<0.001).

Major study limitations:

  1. The use of OAC use was defined as patients taking them 7 days prior to ICH, however the timing of the last doses of the OAC was not document, and it is possible that some patients might have not taken it or received a lower dose.
  2. Data regarding platelet transfusion was not recorded on the registry, and this might have influenced outcomes.

Key take-home message:

One of the most devastating complications of the use of FXa inhibitors is ICH, and although its prevalence is low (<0.5%), the in-hospital mortality can be as high as 27% as it was found on this study.  Although its high, when compared with prior use of warfarin, taking FXa inhibitors has a lower risk of mortality and dead or discharge to a hospice in the setting of ICH.

Potential future research:

  • Develop prospective studies that compare the available treatments for spontaneous ICH bleeding, four-factor prothrombin complexes concentrate vs. reverse factor Xa inhibitors (Andexanet). An underpowered retrospective study by Ammar et. Al,2 found no difference between these treatments due to the low number of patients analyzed in this study. Due to the burden of this complication we must find the most adequate treatment for non-traumatic ICH in the setting of FXa inhibitor use.



  1. Xian Y, Zhang S, Inohara T, et al. Clinical Characteristics and Outcomes Associated With Oral Anticoagulant Use Among Patients Hospitalized With Intracerebral Hemorrhage. JAMA Network Open. 2021;4(2):e2037438-e2037438.
  2. Ammar AA, Ammar MA, Owusu KA, et al. Andexanet Alfa Versus 4-Factor Prothrombin Complex Concentrate for Reversal of Factor Xa Inhibitors in Intracranial Hemorrhage. Neurocrit Care. 2021.

“The views, opinions and positions expressed within this blog are those of the author(s) alone and do not represent those of the American Heart Association. The accuracy, completeness and validity of any statements made within this article are not guaranteed. We accept no liability for any errors, omissions or representations. The copyright of this content belongs to the author and any liability with regards to infringement of intellectual property rights remains with them. The Early Career Voice blog is not intended to provide medical advice or treatment. Only your healthcare provider can provide that. The American Heart Association recommends that you consult your healthcare provider regarding your personal health matters. If you think you are having a heart attack, stroke or another emergency, please call 911 immediately.”