The plasminogen-activating enzyme system has been exploited and harnessed for therapeutic thrombolysis for nearly three decades. Tissue-type plasminogen activator is still the only thrombolytic agent approved for patients with ischemic stroke. While tissue-type plasminogen activator-induced thrombolysis is proven to be of clear benefit in these patients if administered within 4·5 h poststroke onset, it is surprisingly underused in clinics despite international guidelines and improved acute stroke systems, a situation that requires urgent attention. While tissue-type plasminogen activator has also been shown to have unforeseen roles in the brain that have presented new challenges, tissue-type plasminogen activator and related fibrinolytic agents are currently being assessed over extended time frames. This review will focus on the therapeutic experience and controversies of tissue-type plasminogen activator. Furthermore, we will also provide an overview of recent and current trials assessing tissue-type plasminogen activator and related thrombolytic agents as well as novel approaches for the treatment of ischemic stroke.
© 2012 The Authors. International Journal of Stroke © 2012 World Stroke Organization.