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Ther Adv Chronic Dis. 2011 Mar;2(2):119-31. doi: 10.1177/2040622310394032.

Thrombolysis in acute ischaemic stroke: an update.

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University Hospitals of Leicester NHS Trust -Ageing and Stroke Medicine, Leicester, UK.


Stroke is a major cause of mortality and morbidity, and thrombolysis has served as a catalyst for major changes in the management of acute ischaemic stroke. Intravenous alteplase (recombinant tissue plasminogen activator) is the only approved thrombolytic agent at present indicated for acute ischaemic stoke. While the licensed time window extends to 3h from symptom onset, recent data suggest that the trial window can be extended up to 4.5 h with overall benefit. Nonetheless, 'time is brain' and every effort must be made to reduce the time delay to thrombolysis. Intracranial haemorrhage is the major complication associated with thrombolysis, and key factors increasing risk of haemorrhage include increasing age, high blood pressure, diabetes and stroke severity. Currently, there is no direct evidence to support thrombolysis in patients >80 years of age, with a few case series indicating no overt harm. Identification of viable penumbra based on computed tomography/magnetic resonance imaging may allow future extension of the time window. Adjuvant transcranial Doppler ultrasound has the potential to improve reperfusion rates. While intra-arterial thrombolysis has been in vogue for a few decades, there is no clear advantage over intravenous thrombolysis. The evidence base for thrombolysis in specific situations (e.g. dissection, pregnancy) is inadequate, and individualized decisions are needed, with a clear indication to the patient/carer about the lack of direct evidence, and the risk-benefit balance. Patient-friendly information leaflets may facilitate the process of consent for thrombolysis. This article summarizes the recent advances in thrombolysis for acute ischaemic stroke. Key questions faced by clinicians during the decision-making process are answered based on the evidence available.


acute stroke; ischaemic stroke; thrombolysis; update

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