Objective: To investigate the feasibility of intra-arterial thrombolysis in acute basilar artery thrombosis.
Design: We reviewed a consecutive series of patients in whom intra-arterial thrombolysis was performed during the period from 1994 to 1996.
Material and methods: Intra-arterial thrombolysis with urokinase was done in an attempt to recanalize the basilar artery in a series of nine patients with basilar artery thrombosis admitted to the neurologic intensive care unit. At the time of initial assessment, all nine patients had major neurologic deficits attributable to brain-stem ischemia, including two patients with locked-in syndrome.
Results: Recanalization of the basilar artery system was successful in seven of the nine patients (a range of 2 to 13 hours after the ictus). Failure to recanalize the basilar artery occurred in two patients, who died after progressing to coma. Complete recovery or only minimal neurologic deficits were demonstrated in five of the nine patients. Despite recanalization of the basilar artery, two patients had no major change in their neurologic function, and both ultimately had severe ataxia and were fully dependent on others. A cerebellar hemorrhage occurred in one patient but without clinical worsening. Two patients had a retroperitoneal hematoma.
Conclusion: Intra-arterial thrombolysis with urokinase in acute basilar artery occlusion resulted in recanalization in seven of the nine patients (78%). Five of the nine patients recovered fully, including two patients who had had locked-in syndrome. In light of the devastating natural course of acute basilar artery occlusion, these initial results are encouraging and indicate that intra-arterial thrombolysis may be a useful emergency treatment, even in patients with prolonged symptoms of ischemia (up to 12 hours).