Time Window for Powerful Stroke Drug Often Missed

Few patients receive clot-dissolving drug, researchers find

MONDAY, March 15, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- Only a small number of stroke patients arrive at hospital in time to be treated with the clot-dissolving drug intravenous tissue plasminogen activator (IV tPA).

That finding is reported in a Cleveland Clinic Foundation study in the March issue of Archives of Neurology.

For some people with ischemic stroke (where a clot blocks an artery), IV tPA can help dissolve blood clots and restore blood flow. But the drug must be given within three hours of the start of stroke symptoms.

Researchers reviewed the cases of 1,923 people with ischemic stroke admitted to the nine Cleveland Clinic Health System hospitals from June 15, 1999, to June 15, 2000. Of those patients, 288 (15 percent) arrived at a hospital emergency department within the three-hour time window and about 6.9 percent were considered eligible for IV tPA.

Mild neurologic impairment or rapidly improving symptoms were among the most common reasons why stroke patients were ineligible for IV tPA even if they arrived within the three-hour window.

Overall, the study found a 19.4 percent rate of IV tPA use among ischemic stroke patients who arrived at the hospital within the three-hour time period. The rate of IV tPA use among eligible patients was 43.4 percent.

More information

The American Stroke Association has more about stroke treatment and care.

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, March 15, 2004
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