Objectives: (1) To determine whether and how outcome measurements in the ECASS trial are influenced by a shorter time window (0-3 vs. 3-6 h) between onset of symptoms and start of thrombolytic therapy using recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (rt-PA) in acute ischemic stroke. (2) To discuss the results of the ECASS 0- to 3-hour cohort with the results of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke Study (NINDSS).
Design and analysis: Analysis of the 0- to 3-hour and the 3- to 6-hour cohort in accordance with the ECASS protocol. Comparative analysis of the ECASS and NINDSS results following the NINDSS protocol using dichotomized endpoints.
Main outcome measures: Primary endpoints: modified Rankin Scale, Barthel Index; secondary endpoints: combined Barthel/Rankin, long-term Scandinavian Stroke Scale, National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale, mortality at 30 and 90 days, occurrence of intracranial hemorrhage. NINDS trial endpoint: favorable outcome as defined in the NINDS trial.
Results: In ECASS, 87 patients were randomized within 3 h of stroke onset. Differences in favor of rt-PA treatment can be found for all primary and secondary outcome measures in the ECASS 0- to 3-hour cohort, except for mortality at day 30, which is somewhat higher in the rt-pA-treated group. However, due to the small sample size, the differences do not reach statistical significance. Early infarct signs (as defined by the ECASS protocol) are found as early as 2 h after stroke onset. Parenchymal hemorrhages are found significantly more often among rt-PA-treated patients. The results in the ECASS 0- to 3-hour cohort fit well with the results in NINDSS.
Conclusion: Data from the 3-hour ECASS cohort support the efficacy of early thrombolytic therapy in acute hemispheric stroke patients. Comparing bleeding complications between the ECASS and NINDSS is difficult because of differences in the definition and occurrence of hemorrhagic events.