Safety and outcome after thrombolysis in stroke patients with mild symptoms

Cerebrovasc Dis. 2009;27(2):160-6. doi: 10.1159/000185607. Epub 2008 Dec 18.


Background: Thrombolytic therapy is frequently withheld in patients with minor stroke symptoms. However, recent studies demonstrate that a substantial proportion of these patients dies or remains permanently disabled because of underestimation of symptom severity at baseline or secondary deterioration. We aimed to assess the safety and outcome of thrombolysis therapy in patients with minor but disabling stroke symptoms.

Methods: 32 patients presenting with mild symptoms were treated with intravenous recombinant tissue-type plasminogen activator between April 2006 and April 2008. Data were extracted from a prospectively collected database. Baseline demographic data, and clinical, laboratory and imaging findings were analyzed. Outcome was assessed using the modified Rankin Scale (mRS) score at 3 months and was dichotomized into favorable (mRS 0-1) versus unfavorable (mRS 2-6).

Results: In the majority of patients, the left hemisphere was affected, with aphasia representing the most common symptom leading to treatment decision. The frequency of perfusion lesion (46%) and vessel occlusion (35%) at baseline was high but had no effect on the outcome at 3 months in our series of treated patients. Outcome was favorable in 94% of patients, and 47% recovered without any persisting symptom. Only one asymptomatic and no symptomatic hemorrhage was observed.

Conclusion: Our data support current guidelines and international licenses which give no lower National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale (NIHSS) limit for intravenous thrombolysis (IVT). Considering the accumulating evidence that the natural course in patients with mild symptoms is not as favorable as often assumed and taking the low risk of bleeding in those patients into account, patients with mild but disabling symptoms should be treated with IVT regardless of their baseline NIHSS score.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Female
  • Fibrinolytic Agents / adverse effects*
  • Fibrinolytic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Germany
  • Hemorrhage / chemically induced
  • Hemorrhage / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • National Institutes of Health (U.S.)
  • Prospective Studies
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Severity of Illness Index*
  • Stroke / drug therapy*
  • Thrombolytic Therapy / adverse effects*
  • Tissue Plasminogen Activator / adverse effects*
  • Tissue Plasminogen Activator / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States


  • Fibrinolytic Agents
  • Tissue Plasminogen Activator