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Am J Emerg Med. 2010 Mar;28(3):359-63. doi: 10.1016/j.ajem.2009.01.025.

Intravenous tissue plasminogen activator and stroke in the elderly.

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Department of Neurology, University of Washington, Seattle, 98195, USA.



Since publication in 1995 of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) trial of intravenous tissue plasminogen activator (IV tPA) for acute ischemic stroke, the benefit and frequency of use of IV tPA in the elderly have remained uncertain.


We obtained data from the NINDS trial to summarize outcomes for randomized subjects older than 80 years. We used data from the Cardiovascular Health Study, a cohort study of 5888 elderly participants from 4 US communities followed longitudinally for stroke since 1989 to estimate the use of and hospital outcome after IV tPA in older adults following publication of the trial in 1995.


In the NINDS trial, 44 subjects older than 80 years were randomized, and their 3-month functional outcomes were not significantly improved with IV tPA. Of 25 randomized to IV tPA, 4 experienced symptomatic intracranial hemorrhages within 36 hours of treatment. Compared with younger patients, older patients were 2.87 times more likely to experience a symptomatic intracranial hemorrhage within 36 hours of IV tPA (95% confidence interval, 1.04-7.93). Of 227 Cardiovascular Health Study participants hospitalized for ischemic stroke between 1995 and 2002, seven, whose mean age was 84 years, were treated with IV tPA (3.1%; 95% confidence interval 1.2-6.2). Two had symptomatic intracranial hemorrhages, 3 failed to improve, and 2 of the 7 had good outcomes.


These data highlight the need to clarify the risk-benefit profile of IV tPA in ischemic stroke victims who are older than 80 years.

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