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Open Access Research article

Inter-rater reliability of data elements from a prototype of the Paul Coverdell National Acute Stroke Registry

Mathew J Reeves*, Andrew J Mullard and Susan Wehner

Author Affiliations

Department of Epidemiology, College of Human Medicine, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI, USA

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BMC Neurology 2008, 8:19  doi:10.1186/1471-2377-8-19

Published: 11 June 2008



The Paul Coverdell National Acute Stroke Registry (PCNASR) is a U.S. based national registry designed to monitor and improve the quality of acute stroke care delivered by hospitals. The registry monitors care through specific performance measures, the accuracy of which depends in part on the reliability of the individual data elements used to construct them. This study describes the inter-rater reliability of data elements collected in Michigan's state-based prototype of the PCNASR.


Over a 6-month period, 15 hospitals participating in the Michigan PCNASR prototype submitted data on 2566 acute stroke admissions. Trained hospital staff prospectively identified acute stroke admissions, abstracted chart information, and submitted data to the registry. At each hospital 8 randomly selected cases were re-abstracted by an experienced research nurse. Inter-rater reliability was estimated by the kappa statistic for nominal variables, and intraclass correlation coefficient (ICC) for ordinal and continuous variables. Factors that can negatively impact the kappa statistic (i.e., trait prevalence and rater bias) were also evaluated.


A total of 104 charts were available for re-abstraction. Excellent reliability (kappa or ICC > 0.75) was observed for many registry variables including age, gender, black race, hemorrhagic stroke, discharge medications, and modified Rankin Score. Agreement was at least moderate (i.e., 0.75 > kappa ≥; 0.40) for ischemic stroke, TIA, white race, non-ambulance arrival, hospital transfer and direct admit. However, several variables had poor reliability (kappa < 0.40) including stroke onset time, stroke team consultation, time of initial brain imaging, and discharge destination. There were marked systematic differences between hospital abstractors and the audit abstractor (i.e., rater bias) for many of the data elements recorded in the emergency department.


The excellent reliability of many of the data elements supports the use of the PCNASR to monitor and improve care. However, the poor reliability for several variables, particularly time-related events in the emergency department, indicates the need for concerted efforts to improve the quality of data collection. Specific recommendations include improvements to data definitions, abstractor training, and the development of ED-based real-time data collection systems.