Background: Treatment with intravenous (i.v.) recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (rt-PA) is recommended for selected patients with acute ischaemic stroke. We evaluated the feasibility and safety of this treatment in clinical practice in a hospital without a specialised neuro-intensive care unit.
Methods: We prospectively studied all patients who were treated with i.v. rt-PA for ischaemic stroke at our hospital between January 2001 and June 2002. The selection criteria corresponded to those published by the NINDS  and ECASS  groups. Time intervals between stroke symptom onset, hospital arrival and treatment with rt-PA were measured. A modified NIH stroke scale was used to assess clinical outcome 24 hours after stroke onset and before discharge. Cerebral computed tomography was performed prior to thrombolysis and again if the neurological status failed to improve or deteriorated.
Results: Thrombolytic therapy was administered to 15 acute ischaemic stroke patients, 13 men and two women with a median age of 69 years. The median time from stroke onset to rt-PA therapy was 135 minutes and from arrival in the emergency room to the start of thrombolysis 74 minutes. Ten patients exhibited early clinical improvement, defined as a decrease in NIHSS score by 4 points at 24 hours. Further improvement until discharge was observed in nine of these ten patients. One patient developed a non-fatal intracerebral haemorrhage. Another patient with severe stroke and clinical failure of thrombolysis died after 25 days.
Conclusions: This study in a small patient population suggests that thrombolysis with rt-PA for acute ischaemic stroke is feasible without excess risk in a hospital experienced in the management of stroke patients, with a neurological consultant service but without a specialised neuro-intensive care unit (NICU). The outcome in this small series of patients corresponds to the results described in the randomised trials.