Background and purpose: In acute ischemic stroke, thrombolytic treatment with recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (rtPA) is limited by a concomitant activation of the coagulatory system, leading to incomplete or delayed reperfusion, microcirculatory disturbances, or even repeated vessel occlusions. Our pilot study sought to assess the therapeutic potential of a new treatment strategy combining rtPA at reduced dosages with a platelet glycoprotein IIb/IIIa (GPIIb/IIIa) inhibitory agent in acute middle cerebral artery occlusion.
Methods: Nineteen patients suffering from acute middle cerebral artery occlusion (Thrombolysis in Myocardial Infarction [TIMI] flow grade 0 to 1) underwent combined intravenous thrombolytic treatment using rtPA at reduced dosages and the GPIIb/IIIa antagonist tirofiban. Stroke MRI (diffusion- and perfusion-weighted imaging) and MR angiography were performed at baseline and between days 1 and 2 after treatment. Clinical scores (National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale and modified Rankin Scale) were assessed at baseline and after 1 week.
Results: Middle cerebral artery recanalization (TIMI flow grade 2 and 3) occurred in 13 of 19 patients (68%). The ischemic lesion on follow-up MRI was significantly smaller in patients with recanalization compared with those without recanalization (P=0.001). Only patients with recanalization improved neurologically (P<0.001). Because no symptomatic hemorrhage was observed, the power of our study to detect a symptomatic bleeding rate of > or =8% was at least 80%.
Conclusions: Combined thrombolysis with a GPIIb/IIIa antagonist and rtPA at reduced dosages is promising but cannot be recommended for general use before prospective randomized clinical trials are completed.