What is tPA?
Treating Ischemic Strokes
A stroke is an emergency requiring immediate medical attention. Strokes happen when blood flow to the brain is interrupted, causing brain cells to begin dying from lack of oxygenated blood. The majority of strokes, which are caused by a blood clot, are called ischemic strokes.
Timing is Important
Effective treatment of a stroke depends on quickly getting emergency care. Ideally, patients should be seen in an emergency room within 60 minutes of symptoms developing.
- tPA can be used to treat ischemic strokes but only if given within three hours of the first symptoms.
- Early treatment with tPA can reduce the effects of a stroke and reduce permanent disability.
What is tPA?
- tPA stands for Tissue Plasminogen Activator.
- tPA is the only FDA-approved drug to treat ischemic strokes.
- tPA breaks up or dissolves blood clots.
- tPA is considered a safe and effective stroke treatment if used within three hours of the first symptoms.
- A 1995 study by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke found that patients treated with tPA were about 30% more likely to have little or no disability three months after the stroke.
- A multi-center study found that 35% of patients treated with tPA had very favorable outcomes.
- tPA, like other clot-busting drugs, may increase the risk of bleeding.
- Not all ischemic stroke patients can be given tPA treatment.
Doctors need to know a patient’s medical history including medications along with a physical exam and some tests before deciding on treatment. These tests may include:
- A brain CT scan to make sure there is no bleeding
- Blood pressure measurements
- An EKG
- Carotid ultrasound
- Blood tests
- Cerebral angiography to view the blood vessels in the brain
Symptoms of a Stroke
If you have any stroke symptoms, you must get to the hospital within 60 minutes of the first symptoms. If any of these symptoms suddenly occur, call 911:
- Numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg
- Confusion or trouble speaking or understanding
- Trouble walking, dizziness or loss of balance or coordination
- Trouble seeing with one or both eyes
- Severe headache with no known reason