Background: The optimal therapy of vertebrobasilar ischemic stroke is under debate. In the case of underlying basilar artery occlusion, intra-arterial thrombolysis is recommended. Because this pathologic condition is rarely found and the procedure is time consuming and restricted to specialized centers, the question arises whether early intravenous thrombolysis could also effectively be applied in vertebrobasilar ischemic stroke.
Objective: To determine if early intravenous thrombolysis could be used effectively in vertebrobasilar ischemic stroke.
Design: A case series of 12 consecutive patients with acute vertebrobasilar ischemia were followed up 3 months after thrombolytic treatment at the Department of Neurology of the University Hospital of Cologne, Cologne, Germany, a primary care and referral center.
Methods: Patients with clinically diagnosed moderate to severe vertebrobasilar ischemic stroke with clearly determined symptom onset were treated with intravenous recombinant tissue-type plasminogen activator within 3 hours after symptom onset following a protocol similar to that of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke study.
Results: On admission, 7 patients exhibited moderate to severe brainstem symptoms without impairment of consciousness and 5 patients had impairment of consciousness, of whom 2 were comatose. Of 12 patients, 10 had a favorable outcome after 3 months defined as full independence (Barthel index score of 100) or return to premorbid condition. One patient had a poor outcome with complete dependency due to reocclusion after primarily successful thrombolysis, and 1 patient died of severe brainstem infarction and additional space occupying parietal hemorrhage.
Conclusion: Favorable outcome could be achieved in the majority of 12 consecutive patients with moderate to severe vertebrobasilar ischemic stroke treated with intravenous recombinant tissue-type plasminogen activator within 3 hours after symptom onset.