Background: Thrombolysis for acute ischaemic stroke has been investigated in several clinical trials, with variable results. We have assessed the safety and efficacy of intravenous thrombolysis with alteplase (0.9 mg/kg bodyweight) within 6 h of stroke onset.
Methods: This non-angiographic, randomised, double-blind, trial enrolled 800 patients in Europe, Australia, and New Zealand. Computed tomography was used to exclude patients with signs of major infarction. Alteplase (n=409) and placebo (n=391) were randomly assigned with stratification for time since symptom onset (0-3 h or 3-6 h). The primary endpoint was the modified Rankin scale (mRS) at 90 days, dichotomised for favourable (score 0-1) and unfavourable (score 2-6) outcome. Analyses were by intention to treat.
Findings: 165 (40.3%) alteplase-group patients and 143 (36.6%) placebo-group patients had favourable mRS outcomes (absolute difference 3.7%, p=0.277). In a posthoc analysis of mRS scores dichotomised for death or dependency, 222 (54.3%) alteplase-group and 180 (46.0%) placebo-group patients had favourable outcomes (score 0-2; absolute difference 8.3%, p=0.024). Treatment differences were similar whether patients were treated within 3 h or 3-6 h. 85 (10.6%) patients died, with no difference between treatment groups at day 90+/-14 days (43 alteplase, 42 placebo). Symptomatic intracranial haemorrhage occurred in 36 (8.8%) alteplase-group patients and 13 (3.4%) placebo-group patients.
Interpretation: The results do not confirm a statistical benefit for alteplase. However, we believe the trend towards efficacy should be interpreted in the light of evidence from previous trials. Despite the increased risk of intracranial haemorrhage, thrombolysis with alteplase at a dose of 0.9 mg/kg in selected patients may lead to a clinically relevant improvement in outcome.