Background: Patients with acute neurologic symptoms may have other causes simulating ischemic stroke, called stroke mimics (SM), but they may also have averted strokes that do not appear as infarcts on neuroimaging, which we call neuroimaging-negative cerebral ischemia (NNCI). We determined the safety and outcome of IV thrombolysis within 3 hours of symptom onset in patients with SM and NNCI.
Methods: Patients treated with IV tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) within 3 hours of symptom onset were identified from our stroke registry from June 2004 to October 2008. We collected admission NIH Stroke Scale (NIHSS) score, modified Rankin score (mRS), length of stay (LOS), symptomatic intracerebral hemorrhage (sICH), and discharge diagnosis.
Results: Among 512 treated patients, 21% were found not to have an infarct on follow-up imaging. In the SM group (14%), average age was 55 years, median admission NIHSS was 7, median discharge NIHSS was 0, median LOS was 3 days, and there were no instances of sICH. The most common etiologies were seizure, complicated migraine, and conversion disorder. In the NNCI group (7%), average age was 61 years, median admission NIHSS was 7, median discharge NIHSS was 0, median LOS was 3 days, and there were no instances of sICH. Nearly all SM (87%) and NNCI (91%) patients were functionally independent on discharge (mRS 0-1).
Conclusions: Our data support the safety of administering IV tissue plasminogen activator to patients with suspected acute cerebral ischemia within 3 hours of symptom onset, even when the diagnosis ultimately is found not to be stroke or imaging does not show an infarct.