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      Recombinant tissue plasminogen activator for acute ischaemic stroke: an updated systematic review and meta-analysis


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          Recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (rt-PA, alteplase) improved functional outcome in patients treated soon after acute ischaemic stroke in randomised trials, but licensing is restrictive and use varies widely. The IST-3 trial adds substantial new data. We therefore assessed all the evidence from randomised trials for rt-PA in acute ischaemic stroke in an updated systematic review and meta-analysis.


          We searched for randomised trials of intravenous rt-PA versus control given within 6 h of onset of acute ischaemic stroke up to March 30, 2012. We estimated summary odds ratios (ORs) and 95% CI in the primary analysis for prespecified outcomes within 7 days and at the final follow-up of all patients treated up to 6 h after stroke.


          In up to 12 trials (7012 patients), rt-PA given within 6 h of stroke significantly increased the odds of being alive and independent (modified Rankin Scale, mRS 0–2) at final follow-up (1611/3483 [46·3%] vs 1434/3404 [42·1%], OR 1·17, 95% CI 1·06–1·29; p=0·001), absolute increase of 42 (19–66) per 1000 people treated, and favourable outcome (mRS 0–1) absolute increase of 55 (95% CI 33–77) per 1000. The benefit of rt-PA was greatest in patients treated within 3 h (mRS 0–2, 365/896 [40·7%] vs 280/883 [31·7%], 1·53, 1·26–1·86, p<0·0001), absolute benefit of 90 (46–135) per 1000 people treated, and mRS 0–1 (283/896 [31·6%] vs 202/883 [22·9%], 1·61, 1·30–1·90; p<0·0001), absolute benefit 87 (46–128) per 1000 treated. Numbers of deaths within 7 days were increased (250/2807 [8·9%] vs 174/2728 [6·4%], 1·44, 1·18–1·76; p=0·0003), but by final follow-up the excess was no longer significant (679/3548 [19·1%] vs 640/3464 [18·5%], 1·06, 0·94–1·20; p=0·33). Symptomatic intracranial haemorrhage (272/3548 [7·7%] vs 63/3463 [1·8%], 3·72, 2·98–4·64; p<0·0001) accounted for most of the early excess deaths. Patients older than 80 years achieved similar benefit to those aged 80 years or younger, particularly when treated early.


          The evidence indicates that intravenous rt-PA increased the proportion of patients who were alive with favourable outcome and alive and independent at final follow-up. The data strengthen previous evidence to treat patients as early as possible after acute ischaemic stroke, although some patients might benefit up to 6 h after stroke.


          UK Medical Research Council, Stroke Association, University of Edinburgh, National Health Service Health Technology Assessment Programme, Swedish Heart-Lung Fund, AFA Insurances Stockholm (Arbetsmarknadens Partners Forsakringsbolag), Karolinska Institute, Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg Foundation, Research Council of Norway, Oslo University Hospital.

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          Most cited references21

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          Effects of alteplase beyond 3 h after stroke in the Echoplanar Imaging Thrombolytic Evaluation Trial (EPITHET): a placebo-controlled randomised trial.

          Whether intravenous tissue plasminogen activator (alteplase) is effective beyond 3 h after onset of acute ischaemic stroke is unclear. We aimed to test whether alteplase given 3-6 h after stroke onset promotes reperfusion and attenuates infarct growth in patients who have a mismatch in perfusion-weighted MRI (PWI) and diffusion-weighted MRI (DWI). We prospectively and randomly assigned 101 patients to receive alteplase or placebo 3-6 h after onset of ischaemic stroke. PWI and DWI were done before and 3-5 days after therapy, with T2-weighted MRI at around day 90. The primary endpoint was infarct growth between baseline DWI and the day 90 T2 lesion in mismatch patients. Major secondary endpoints were reperfusion, good neurological outcome, and good functional outcome. Patients, caregivers, and investigators were unaware of treatment allocations. Primary analysis was per protocol. This study is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, number NCT00238537. We randomly assigned 52 patients to alteplase and 49 patients to placebo. Mean age was 71.6 years, and median score on the National Institutes of Health stroke scale was 13. 85 of 99 (86%) patients had mismatch of PWI and DWI. The geometric mean infarct growth (exponential of the mean log of relative growth) was 1.24 with alteplase and 1.78 with placebo (ratio 0.69, 95% CI 0.38-1.28; Student's t test p=0.239); the median relative infarct growth was 1.18 with alteplase and 1.79 with placebo (ratio 0.66, 0.36-0.92; Wilcoxon's test p=0.054). Reperfusion was more common with alteplase than with placebo and was associated with less infarct growth (p=0.001), better neurological outcome (p<0.0001), and better functional outcome (p=0.010) than was no reperfusion. Alteplase was non-significantly associated with lower infarct growth and significantly associated with increased reperfusion in patients who had mismatch. Because reperfusion was associated with improved clinical outcomes, phase III trials beyond 3 h after treatment are warranted.
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            Collaborative overview of randomised trials of antiplatelet therapy--I: Prevention of death, myocardial infarction, and stroke by prolonged antiplatelet therapy in various categories of patients. Antiplatelet Trialists' Collaboration.

            To determine the effects of "prolonged" antiplatelet therapy (that is, given for one month or more) on "vascular events" (non-fatal myocardial infarctions, non-fatal strokes, or vascular deaths) in various categories of patients. Overviews of 145 randomised trials of "prolonged" antiplatelet therapy versus control and 29 randomised comparisons between such antiplatelet regimens. Randomised trials that could have been available by March 1990. Trials of antiplatelet therapy versus control included about 70,000 "high risk" patients (that is, with some vascular disease or other condition implying an increased risk of occlusive vascular disease) and 30,000 "low risk" subjects from the general population. Direct comparisons of different antiplatelet regimens involved about 10,000 high risk patients. In each of four main high risk categories of patients antiplatelet therapy was definitely protective. The percentages of patients suffering a vascular event among those allocated antiplatelet therapy versus appropriately adjusted control percentages (and mean scheduled treatment durations and net absolute benefits) were: (a) among about 20,000 patients with acute myocardial infarction, 10% antiplatelet therapy v 14% control (one month benefit about 40 vascular events avoided per 1000 patients treated (2P < 0.00001)); (b) among about 20,000 patients with a past history of myocardial infarction, 13% antiplatelet therapy v 17% control (two year benefit about 40/1000 (2P < 0.00001)); (c) among about 10,000 patients with a past history of stroke or transient ischaemic attack, 18% antiplatelet therapy v 22% control (three year benefit about 40/1000 (2P < 0.00001)); (d) among about 20,000 patients with some other relevant medical history (unstable angina, stable angina, vascular surgery, angioplasty, atrial fibrillation, valvular disease, peripheral vascular disease, etc), 9% v 14% in 4000 patients with unstable angina (six month benefit about 50/1000 (2P < 0.00001)) and 6% v 8% in 16,000 other high risk patients (one year benefit about 20/1000 (2P < 0.00001)). Reductions in vascular events were about one quarter in each of these four main categories and were separately statistically significant in middle age and old age, in men and women, in hypertensive and normotensive patients, and in diabetic and nondiabetic patients. Taking all high risk patients together showed reductions of about one third in non-fatal myocardial infarction, about one third in non-fatal stroke, and about one third in vascular death (each 2P < 0.00001). There was no evidence that non-vascular deaths were increased, so in each of the four main high risk categories overall mortality was significantly reduced. The most widely tested antiplatelet regimen was "medium dose" (75-325 mg/day) aspirin. Doses throughout this range seemed similarly effective (although in an acute emergency it might be prudent to use an initial dose of 160-325 mg rather than about 75 mg). There was no appreciable evidence that either a higher aspirin dose or any other antiplatelet regimen was more effective than medium dose aspirin in preventing vascular events. The optimal duration of treatment for patients with a past history of myocardial infarction, stroke, or transient ischaemic attack could not be determined directly because most trials lasted only one, two, or three years (average about two years). Nevertheless, there was significant (2P < 0.0001) further benefit between the end of year 1 and the end of year 3, suggesting that longer treatment might well be more effective. Among low risk recipients of "primary prevention" a significant reduction of one third in non-fatal myocardial infarction was, however, accompanied by a non-significant increase in stroke. Furthermore, the absolute reduction in vascular events was much smaller than for high risk patients despite a much longer treatment period (4.4% antiplatelet therapy v 4.8% control; five year
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              Recombinant tissue-type plasminogen activator (Alteplase) for ischemic stroke 3 to 5 hours after symptom onset. The ATLANTIS Study: a randomized controlled trial. Alteplase Thrombolysis for Acute Noninterventional Therapy in Ischemic Stroke.

              Recombinant tissue-type plasminogen activator (rt-PA) improves outcomes for patients with acute ischemic stroke, but current approved use is limited to within 3 hours of symptom onset. This restricts the number of patients who can be treated, since most stroke patients present more than 3 hours after symptom onset. To test the efficacy and safety of rt-PA in patients with acute ischemic stroke when administered between 3 and 5 hours after symptom onset. The Alteplase ThromboLysis for Acute Noninterventional Therapy in Ischemic Stroke (ATLANTIS) study is a phase 3, placebo-controlled, double-blind randomized study conducted between December 1993 and July 1998, with up to 90 days of follow-up. One hundred forty university and community hospitals in North America. An intent-to-treat population of 613 acute ischemic stroke patients was enrolled, with 547 of these treated as assigned within 3 to 5 hours of symptom onset. A total of 39 others were treated within 3 hours of symptom onset, 24 were treated more than 5 hours after symptom onset, and 3 never received any study drug. Administration of 0.9 mg/kg of rt-PA (n = 272) or placebo (n = 275) intravenously over 1 hour. Primary efficacy was an excellent neurologic recovery at day 90 (National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale [NIHSS] score of < or =1); secondary end points included excellent recovery on functional outcome measures (Barthel index, modified Rankin scale, and Glasgow Outcome Scale) at days 30 and 90. Serious adverse events were also assessed. In the target population, 32% of the placebo and 34% of rt-PA patients had an excellent recovery at 90 days (P = .65). There were no differences on any of the secondary functional outcome measures. In the first 10 days treatment with rt-PA significantly increased the rate of symptomatic intracerebral hemorrhage (ICH) (1.1% vs 7.0% [P<.001]), a symptomatic ICH (4.7% vs 11.4% [P = .004]), and fatal ICH (0.3% vs 3.0% [P<.001]). Mortality at 90 days was 6.9% with placebo and 11.0% with rt-PA (P = .09). Results in the intent-to-treat population were similar. This study found no significant rt-PA benefit on the 90-day efficacy end points in patients treated between 3 and 5 hours. The risk of symptomatic ICH increased with rt-PA treatment. These results do not support the use of intravenous rt-PA for stroke treatment beyond 3 hours.

                Author and article information

                Lancet Publishing Group
                23 June 2012
                23 June 2012
                : 379
                : 9834
                : 2364-2372
                [a ]Division of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Edinburgh, Western General Hospital, Edinburgh, UK
                [b ]Karolinska Institute, Danderyd Hospital, Stockholm, Sweden
                [c ]Department of Internal Medicine, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway
                [d ]School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA, USA
                [e ]Sydney Medical School-Westmead Hospital, and George Institute for Global Health, University of Sydney, NSW, Australia
                Author notes
                [* ]Correspondence to: Prof Joanna M Wardlaw, Division of Clinical Neurosciences, University of Edinburgh, Western General Hospital, Crewe Road, Edinburgh EH4 2XU, UK joanna.wardlaw@ 123456ed.ac.uk
                © 2012 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

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