Barriers to the utilization of thrombolysis for acute ischaemic stroke

J Clin Pharm Ther. 2012 Aug;37(4):399-409. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2710.2011.01329.x. Epub 2012 Mar 4.


What is known and objective: Thrombolysis is currently the only evidence-based pharmacological treatment available for acute ischaemic stroke (AIS); however, its current utilization is suboptimal (administered to <3% of AIS patients). The aim of this article was to identify the potential barriers to the use of thrombolysis via a review of the available literature.

Methods: Medline, Embase, International Pharmaceutical Abstracts and Google Scholar were searched to identify relevant original articles, review papers and other literature published in the period 1995-2011.

Results and discussion: Several barriers to the utilization of thrombolysis in stroke have been identified in the literature and can be broadly classified as 'preadmission' barriers and 'post-admission' barriers. Preadmission barriers include patient and paramedic-related factors leading to late patient presentation for treatment (i.e. outside the therapeutic time window for the administration of thrombolysis). Post-admission barriers include in-hospital factors, such as suboptimal triage of stroke patients and inefficient in-hospital acute stroke care systems, a lack of appropriate infrastructure and expertise to administer thrombolysis, physician uncertainty in prescribing thrombolysis and difficulty in obtaining informed consent for thrombolysis. Suggested strategies to overcome these barriers include public awareness campaigns, prehospital triage by paramedics, hospital bypass protocols and prenotification systems, urgent stroke-unit admission, on-call multidisciplinary acute stroke teams, urgent neuroimaging protocols, telestroke interventions and risk-assessment tools to aid physicians when considering thrombolysis. Additionally, greater pharmacists' engagement is warranted to help identify the people at risk of stroke and support preventative strategies, and provide the public with information regarding the recognition of stroke, as well as facilitate the access and use of thrombolysis.

What is new and conclusion: The most effective interventions appear to be those comprising several strategies and those that target more than one barrier simultaneously. Therefore, optimal utilization of thrombolysis requires a systematic, integrated multidisciplinary approach across the continuum of acute care.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Ischemia / drug therapy*
  • Brain Ischemia / pathology
  • Delivery of Health Care, Integrated / organization & administration
  • Fibrinolytic Agents / administration & dosage
  • Fibrinolytic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Pharmacists / organization & administration
  • Professional Role
  • Stroke / drug therapy*
  • Stroke / pathology
  • Thrombolytic Therapy / methods
  • Time Factors
  • Triage / methods
  • Triage / standards


  • Fibrinolytic Agents