Role for telemedicine in acute stroke: Feasibility and reliability of remote administration of the NIH Stroke Scale

Saad Shafqat, Joseph C. Kvedar, Mary M. Guanci, Yuchiao Chang, Lee H. Schwamm

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

187 Citations (Scopus)


Background and Purpose - Immediate access to physicians experienced in acute stroke treatment may improve clinical outcomes in patients with acute stroke. Interactive telemedicine can make stroke specialists available to assist in the evaluation of patients at multiple urban or remote rural facilities. We tested whether interrater agreement for the NIH Stroke Scale (NIHSS), a critical component of acute stroke assessment, would persist if performed over a telemedicine link. Methods - One bedside and 1 remote NIHSS score were independently obtained on each of 20 patients with ischemic stroke. The bedside examination was performed by a stroke neurologist at the patient's bedside. The remote examination was performed by a second stroke neurologist through an interactive high-speed audio-video link, assisted by a nurse at the patient's bedside. Kappa coefficients were calculated for concordance between bedside and remote scores. Results - Remote assessments took slightly longer than bedside assessments (mean 9.70 versus 6.55 minutes, P<0.001). NIHSS scores ranged from 1 through 24. Based on weighted κ coefficients, 4 items (orientation, motor arm, motor leg, and neglect) displayed excellent agreement, 6 items (language, dysarthria, sensation, visual fields, facial palsy, and gaze) displayed good agreement, and 2 items (commands and ataxia) displayed poor agreement. Total NIHSS scores obtained by bedside and remote methods were strongly correlated (r=0.97, P<0.001). Conclusions - The NIH Stroke Scale remains a swift and reliable clinical instrument when used over interactive video. Application of this technology can bring stroke expertise to the bedside, regardless of patient location.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2141-2145
Number of pages5
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Reliability
  • Stroke assessment
  • Stroke, ischemic
  • Telemedicine


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