Management of Acute Ischaemic Stroke in the Elderly: Tolerability of Thrombolytics

Tanne, D.; Turgeman, D.; Adler, Y.
July 2001
Drugs;Jul2001, Vol. 61 Issue 10, p1439
Academic Journal
Stroke and its consequences are of global concern. Although stroke can affect individuals of any age, it primarily affects the elderly. It is among the leading causes of severe disability and mortality. In recent years, acute stroke has become a medical emergency requiring urgent evaluation and treatment. Effective management of patients with acute stroke starts with organisation of the entire stroke care chain, from the community and prehospital scene, through the emergency department, to a dedicated stroke unit and then to comprehensive rehabilitation. Intravenous thrombolysis with alteplase (recombinant tissue plasminogen activator; rt-PA) 0.9 mg/kg (maximum dose 90mg) was shown to significantly improve outcome of acute ischaemic stroke, despite an increased rate of symptomatic intracerebral haemorrhage, if treatment is initiated within 3 hours after the onset of symptoms to patients who meet strict eligibility criteria. Post-marketing studies have demonstrated that intravenous alteplase can be administered appropriately in a wide variety of hospital settings. However, strict adherence to the published protocol is mandatory, as failure to comply may be associated with an increased risk of symptomatic intracerebral haemorrhage. Intra-arterial revascularisation may provide more complete restitution of flow than intravenous thrombolytic therapy and improve the clinical outcome if it can be undertaken in patients with occlusion of the middle cerebral artery, and possibly the basilar artery, within the first hours from stroke onset. However, further data are needed. Although intravenous alteplase is recommended for any age beyond 18 years, elderly patients, in particular patients aged ≥80 years, were often excluded or under-represented in randomised clinical trials of thrombolysis, so that available data on risk/benefit ratio for the very elderly are limited. Small post-marketing series suggest that despite elderly patients over 80 years having greater pre-stroke disability, the use of intravenous alteplase in this patient group does not significantly differ in effectiveness and complications compared with the same treatment in patients aged under age 80 years. Further studies are necessary and elderly patients with acute stroke should be included in future trials of the merits of thrombolytic therapy.


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