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J Stroke. 2017 Sep;19(3):261-270. doi: 10.5853/jos.2017.01830. Epub 2017 Sep 29.

Medical Treatment of Intracranial Atherosclerosis: An Update.

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Department of Neurology, Asan Medical Center, University of Ulsan College of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.
Department of Neurology, Samsung Medical Center, Sungkyunkwan University School of Medicine, Seoul, Korea.


For patients with symptomatic intracranial atherosclerosis (ICAS), antithrombotic agents are the mainstay of therapy. Anticoagulation (warfarin) is not widely used since it is not more effective than aspirin and carries a high risk of bleeding. New oral anticoagulants are showing promise, but their use has not been investigated in appropriate clinical trials. Since the recurrent stroke risk is high with aspirin monotherapy, dual antiplatelets are considered in the early stage of symptomatic ICAS. Based on the Clopidogrel in High-Risk Patients with Acute Nondisabling Cerebrovascular Events (CHANCE) and Stenting and Aggressive Medical Management for Preventing Recurrent Stroke in Intracranial Stenosis (SAMMPRIS) results, aspirin plus clopidogrel has been recommended. However, this combination was not superior to aspirin monotherapy in patients with ICAS in the CHANCE substudy. Progression of ICAS is common, and it is associated with recurrent strokes. In the Trial of Cilostazol in Symptomatic Intracranial Arterial Stenosis (TOSS) study, aspirin plus cilostazol was more effective than aspirin monotherapy in preventing progression. The TOSS II trial showed that the overall change in stenosis was better with aspirin plus cilostazol than with aspirin plus clopidogrel. Aside from antithrombotic therapy, risk factor management is critical for secondary prevention, and high blood pressure is clearly linked to recurrent stroke. However, blood pressure may have to be cautiously managed in the early stage of stroke. Considering that ICAS is the major cause of stroke worldwide, further investigations are needed to establish optimal management strategies for patients with ICAS.


Antiplatelet; Blood pressure; Intracranial atherosclerosis; Statin; Treatment

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