Introduction: Patients with unknown stroke onset are generally excluded from acute recanalisation treatments. We designed a pilot study to assess feasibility of a trial of perfusion computed tomography (PCT)-guided thrombolysis in patients with ischemic tissue at risk of infarction and unknown stroke onset.
Methods: Patients with a supratentorial stroke of unknown onset in the middle cerebral artery territory and significant volume of at-risk tissue on PCT were randomized to intravenous thrombolysis with alteplase (0.9 mg/kg) or placebo. Feasibility endpoints were randomization and blinded treatment of patients within 2 h after hospital arrival, and the correct application (estimation) of the perfusion imaging criteria.
Results: At baseline, there was a trend towards older age [69.5 (57-78) vs. 49 (44-78) years] in the thrombolysis group (n = 6) compared to placebo (n = 6). Regarding feasibility, hospital arrival to treatment delay was above the allowed 2 h in three patients (25%). There were two protocol violations (17%) regarding PCT, both underestimating the predicted infarct in patients randomized in the placebo group. No symptomatic hemorrhage or death occurred during the first 7 days. Three of the four (75%) and one of the five (20%) patients were recanalized in the thrombolysis and placebo group respectively. The volume of non-infarcted at-risk tissue was 84 (44-206) cm(3) in the treatment arm and 29 (8-105) cm(3) in the placebo arm.
Conclusions: This pilot study shows that a randomized PCT-guided thrombolysis trial in patients with stroke of unknown onset may be feasible if issues such as treatment delays and reliable identification of tissue at risk of infarction tissue are resolved. Safety and efficiency of such an approach need to be established.