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Crit Care Med. 2001 Sep;29(9):1812-8.

Thrombolytic therapy for ischemic stroke--a review. Part I--Intravenous thrombolysis.

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Department of Neurology, University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany.



Thrombolytic therapy for acute ischemic stroke was implemented into clinical routine 4 yrs ago. Unfortunately, at present <2% of eligible patients receive thrombolytic therapy. We present an overview of all hitherto completed trials of intravenous thrombolytic therapy for carotid artery stroke including recommendations for therapy and diagnostic procedures and their impact on patient selection and meta-analyses.


We performed an extensive literature search not only to identify the larger and well-known randomized trials but also to identify smaller pilot studies and case series. Trials included in this review, among others, are the National Institute of Neurologic Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) study, European Cooperative Acute Stroke Study I and II, and Alteplase Thrombolysis for Acute Noninterventional Therapy in Ischemic Stroke (ATLANTIS) A and B and two large meta-analyses, including the Cochrane Library report.


Intravenous thrombolytic therapy with recombinant tissue plasminogen activator has demonstrated a significant benefit and has proven to be safe for patients who can be treated within 3-6 hrs after symptom onset. This benefit is at the cost of an increased rate of symptomatic intracranial hemorrhage without a significant effect on overall mortality. In general, the benefit of thrombolysis decreases and the risks increase with progressing time after symptom onset. Presently, thrombolytic therapy is still underutilized because of problems with clinical and time criteria, and lack of public and professional education to regard stroke as a treatable emergency. If applied more widely, thrombolytic therapy may result in profound cost savings in health care and reduction of long-term disability of stroke patients.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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