Background Despite the increasing availability of head computerized tomography (CT) in resource-limited settings, it is unclear if brain-imaging-based diagnosis of stroke affects the outcomes in the absence of dedicated structures for acute stroke management. Objectives In a major referral hospital in the capital city of Cameroon, we compared in-hospital mortality rates in patients with a WHO-based diagnosis of stroke between participants with and without brain imaging on admission. Methods Stroke patients with and without admission brain imaging were compared for demographic characteristics, risk factors, clinical and laboratory characteristic, and in-hospital mortality. Heterogeneities in mortality rates (CT vs. No CT) across major subgroups were investigated via interaction tests, and logistic regressions used to adjust for extraneous factors such as age, sex, year of study, residency, history of diabetes and hypertension, history of stroke, Glasgow coma scale, and delay between stroke symptoms onset and hospital admission. Results Of the 1688 participants included in the final analysis, 1048 (62.1%) had brain imaging. The median age of the non-CT vs. CT groups was 65 vs. 62 years (p-value < 0.0001%). The death rate of non-CT vs. CT groups was 27.5% vs. 16.4% (p < 0.0001). This difference was mostly similar across major subgroups, and robust to the adjustments for confounders (in spite of substantial attenuation), with excess deaths in those with CT ranging from 65% to 149%. Conclusion In this resource-limited environment, the absence of brain imaging on admission was associated with high in-hospital death from stroke, which was only partially explained by delayed hospitalization with severe disease. These results stressed the importance of scaling up acute stroke management in low- and middle-income countries.
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