Background: The efficacy of intravenous (IV) alteplase is restricted by the speed of recanalisation and the site of the occlusion. The aim of this study was to ascertain the effect of a combined IV-endovascular approach (intra-arterial alteplase and, if required, additional thrombectomy) in patients with stroke due to arterial occlusion.
Methods: We compared recanalisation rates, neurological improvement at 24 h, and functional outcome at 3 months between two periods (February, 2002, to March, 2007, vs April, 2007, to October, 2008) in patients in a prospective registry who were treated with different regimens of alteplase within 3 h of symptom onset. Patients with confirmed occlusion who were treated before April, 2007, were treated with IV alteplase; after April, 2007, patients were treated with a systematic IV-endovascular approach. Analysis was by intention to treat.
Findings: 46 (87%) of 53 patients treated with the IV-endovascular approach achieved recanalisation versus 56 (52%) of 107 patients in the IV group (adjusted relative risk [RR] 1.49, 95% CI 1.21-1.84; p=0.0002). Early neurological improvement (NIHSS score of 0 or 1 or an improvement of 4 points or more at 24 h) occurred in 32 (60%) patients in the IV-endovascular group and 42 (39%) patients in the IV group (adjusted RR 1.36, 0.97-1.91; p=0.07). Favourable outcome (mRS of 0-2 at 90 days) occurred in 30 (57%) patients in the IV-endovascular group and 47 (44%) patients in the IV group (adjusted RR 1.16, 0.85-1.58; p=0.35). The mortality rate at 90 days was 17% in both groups, and symptomatic intracranial haemorrhage was reported in five (9%) patients in the IV-endovascular group and in 12 (11%) patients in the IV group. Better clinical outcome was associated with recanalisation in both groups and with time to recanalisation in the IV-endovascular group.
Interpretation: An IV-endovascular approach is associated with higher recanalisation rates than is IV alteplase in patients with stroke and confirmed arterial occlusion. In patients treated with an IV-endovascular approach, a shorter time from symptom onset to recanalisation is associated with better clinical outcomes.