Objective: To assess effect of age on response to alteplase in acute ischaemic stroke.
Design: Adjusted controlled comparison of outcomes between non-randomised patients who did or did not undergo thrombolysis. Analysis used Cochran-Mantel-Haenszel test and proportional odds logistic regression analysis.
Setting: Collaboration between International Stroke Thrombolysis Registry (SITS-ISTR) and Virtual International Stroke Trials Archive (VISTA).
Participants: 23 334 patients from SITS-ISTR (December 2002 to November 2009) who underwent thrombolysis and 6166 from VISTA neuroprotection trials (1998-2007) who did not undergo thrombolysis (as controls). Of the 29 500 patients (3472 aged >80 ("elderly," mean 84.6), data on 272 patients were missing for baseline National Institutes of Health stroke severity score, leaving 29 228 patients for analysis adjusted for age and baseline severity.
Main outcome measures: Functional outcomes at 90 days measured by score on modified Rankin scale.
Results: Median severity at baseline was the same for patients who underwent thrombolysis and controls (median baseline stroke scale score: 12 for each group, P=0.14; n=29 228). The distribution of scores on the modified Rankin scale was better among all thrombolysis patients than controls (odds ratio 1.6, 95% confidence interval 1.5 to 1.7; Cochran-Mantel-Haenszel P<0.001). The association occurred independently among patients aged ≤80 (1.6, 1.5 to 1.7; P<0.001; n=25 789) and in those aged >80 (1.4, 1.3 to 1.6; P<0.001; n=3439). Odds ratios were consistent across all 10 year age ranges above 30, and benefit was significant from age 41 to 90; dichotomised outcomes (score on modified Rankin scale 0-1 v 2-6; 0-2 v 3-6; and 6 (death) v rest) were consistent with the results of the ordinal analysis.
Conclusions: Outcome in patients with acute ischaemic stroke is significantly better in those who undergo thrombolysis compared with those who do not. Increasing age is associated with poorer outcome but the association between thrombolysis treatment and improved outcome is maintained in very elderly people. Age alone should not be a barrier to treatment.