Speed of Intracranial Clot Lysis With Intravenous Tissue Plasminogen Activator Therapy

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stroke, prognosis, ultrasonics, thrombolysis, recanalization


Background—Arterial recanalization precedes clinical improvement or may lead to hemorrhage or reperfusion injury. Speed of clot lysis was not previously measured in human stroke.

Methods and Results—Transcranial Doppler (TCD) and the National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS) were used to monitor consecutive patients receiving intravenous tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), before tPA bolus and at 24 hours. Patients with complete or partial recanalization of the middle cerebral or basilar artery on TCD were studied. Recanalization was classified a priori as sudden (abrupt appearance of a normal or stenotic low-resistance signal), stepwise (flow improvement over 1 to 29 minutes), or slow (≥30 minutes). Recanalization was documented in 43 tPA-treated patients (age 68±17 years; NIHSS score 16.8±6, median 15 points). tPA bolus was given at a mean of 135±61 minutes after symptom onset. Recanalization began at a median of 17 minutes and was completed at 35 minutes after tPA bolus, with mean duration of recanalization of 23±16 minutes. Recanalization was sudden in 5, stepwise in 23, and slow in 15 patients. Faster recanalization predicted better short-term improvement (P=0.03). At 24 hours, 80%, 30%, and 13% of patients in these respective recanalization groups had NIHSS scores of 0 to 3. Symptomatic hemorrhage occurred in only 1 patient, who had stepwise recanalization 5.5 hours after stroke onset. Slow or partial recanalization with dampened flow signal was found in 53% of patients with total NIHSS scores >10 points at 24 hours (P=0.01). Complete recanalization (n=25) occurred faster (median 10 minutes) than partial recanalization (n=18; median 30 minutes; P=0.0001).

Conclusions—Rapid arterial recanalization is associated with better short-term improvement, mostly likely because of faster and more complete clot breakup with low resistance of the distal circulatory bed. Slow (≥30 minutes) flow improvement and dampened flow signal are less favorable prognostic signs. These findings may be evaluated to assist with selection of patients for additional pharmacological or interventional treatment.

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Circulation, v. 103, issue 24, p. 2897-2902

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