Intravenous thrombolysis for acute ischemic stroke: a bridge between two centuries

Expert Rev Neurother. 2017 Aug;17(8):819-837. doi: 10.1080/14737175.2017.1347039.


Intravenous tissue-plasminogen activator (tPA) remains the only approved systemic reperfusion therapy suitable for most patients presenting timely with acute ischemic stroke. Accumulating real-word experience for over 20 years regarding tPA safety and effectiveness led to re-appraisal of original contraindications for intravenous thrombolysis (IVT). Areas covered: This narrative review focuses on fast yet appropriate selection of patients for safe administration of tPA per recently expanded indications. Novel strategies for rapid patient assessment will be discussed. The potential for mobile stroke units (MSU) that shorten onset-to-needle time and increase tPA treatment rates is addressed. The use of IVT in the era of non-vitamin K antagonist oral anticoagulants (NOACs) is highlighted. The continuing role of IVT in large vessel occlusion (LVO) patients eligible for mechanical thrombectomy (MT) is discussed with regards to 'drip and ship' vs. 'mothership' treatment paradigms. Promising studies of penumbral imaging to extend IVT beyond the 4.5-hour window and in wake-up strokes are summarized. Expert commentary: This review provides an update on the role of IVT in specific conditions originally considered tPA contraindications. Novel practice challenges including NOAC's, MSU proliferation and bridging therapy (IVT&MT) for LVO patients, and the potential extension of IVT time-window using penumbral imaging are emerging as safe and potentially effective IVT applications.

Keywords: Intravenous thrombolysis; acute stroke treatment; ischemic stroke; rtPA; symptomatic intracranial hemorrhage.

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Intravenous*
  • Arterial Occlusive Diseases / surgery
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Contraindications
  • Fibrinolytic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Angiography
  • Mechanical Thrombolysis
  • Stroke / drug therapy*
  • Stroke / surgery
  • Thrombolytic Therapy / methods*
  • Tissue Plasminogen Activator / administration & dosage*
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Fibrinolytic Agents
  • Tissue Plasminogen Activator