Imaging-Based Decision Making in Thrombolytic Therapy for Ischemic Stroke
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Background— Thrombolysis is the treatment of choice for acute stroke within 3 hours after symptom onset. Treatment beyond the 3-hour time window has not been shown to be effective in any single trial; however, meta-analyses suggest a somewhat lesser but still significant effect within 3 to 6 hours after stroke. It seems reasonable to apply improved selection criteria that allow differentiation between patients with and without a relevant indication for thrombolytic therapy.
Summary of Review— The present literature on imaging in stroke has been thoroughly reviewed, covering Doppler ultrasound (DU), arteriography, CT, and MRI and including modern techniques such as perfusion CT, diffusion- and perfusion-weighted MRI (DWI, PWI), CT angiography and MR angiography (CTA, MRA), and CTA source image analysis (CTA-SI). The authors present their view of a comprehensive diagnostic approach to acute stroke, which challenges the concept of a rigid therapeutic time window.
Conclusions— Information about the presence or absence of a vessel occlusion, whether by means of DU, CTA, or MRA, is essential before recombinant tissue plasminogen activator is given in the 3- to 6-hour time window. Clear demarcation of the irreversibly damaged infarct core and the ischemic but still viable and thus salvageable tissue at risk of infarction as seen on DWI/PWI/MRA or alternatively CT/CTA/CTA-SI should be obtained before thrombolysis is initiated within 3 to 6 hours. Once these advanced techniques are used, the therapeutic time window can be extended with acceptable safety. However, comprehensive informed consent is mandatory, especially when thrombolytic therapy is considered beyond established time windows.
- computed tomography
- magnetic resonance imaging, diffusion-weighted
- magnetic resonance imaging, perfusion-weighted
- magnetic resonance imaging, stroke
- thrombolytic therapy
- tissue plasminogen activator
- Received June 18, 2002.
- Revision received August 28, 2002.
- Accepted August 28, 2002.