AAEM Clinical Practice| Volume 54, ISSUE 5, P723-730, May 2018

Intravenous Recombinant Tissue Plasminogen Activator and Ischemic Stroke: Focused Update of 2010 Clinical Practice Advisory From the American Academy of Emergency Medicine



      Stroke treatment is a continuum that begins with the rapid identification of symptoms and treatment with transition to successful rehabilitation. Therapies for acute ischemic stroke (AIS) may vary based on anatomic location, interval from symptom onset, and coexisting health conditions. Successful therapy requires a seamless systematic approach with coordination from prehospital environment through acute management at medical facilities to disposition and long-term care of the patient. The emergency physician must balance the benefits and risks of alteplase recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (rtPA) for AIS management.


      We review the recent medical literature on the topic of AIS and assess intravenous rtPA for the following questions: 1) is there any applicable, new, high-quality evidence that the benefits of intravenous rtPA are justified in light of the harms associated with it, and 2) if so, does the evidence clarify which patients, if any, are most likely to benefit from the treatment.


      A MEDLINE literature search from January 2010 to October 2016 and limited to human studies written in English for articles with keywords of cerebrovascular accident and (thromboly* OR alteplase). Guideline statements and nonsystematic reviews were excluded. Studies targeting differences between specific populations (males vs. females) were excluded. Studies identified then underwent a structured review from which results could be evaluated.


      Three hundred twenty-two papers on thrombolytic use were screened and nine appropriate articles were rigorously reviewed and recommendations given.


      No new studies published between 2010 and 2016 meaningfully reduced uncertainty regarding our understanding of the benefits and harms of intravenous rtPA for AIS. Discussions regarding benefit and harm should occur for patients, and risk prediction scores may facilitate the conversation.


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