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More time for emergency stroke treatment?

October 20, 2009 |  3:30 pm

Medications to limit damage from a stroke by dissolving blood clots must be given within three hours of the event, according to standard guidelines. But a study published today suggests that the window of opportunity may extend to 4.5 hours.

Stroke Researchers in Germany studied 418 patients who received a type of tissue plasminogen activator called alteplase three to 4.5 hours after a stroke. They were compared to 403 stroke patients who did not receive the treatment. The patients who received alteplase fared better than patients in the placebo group. Improvements were seen in the treated patients across gender, and various age groups, medical history and severity of the stroke.

"Alteplase significantly improved clinical outcomes, without raising additional safety concerns," the authors wrote.

The sooner people recognize the symptoms of a stroke and seek treatment, however, the better, said Dr. Patrick Lyden of Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, in an editorial accompanying the study. "Time is brain, and therapy must be given as soon as possible after the patient arrives -- there is indeed not a moment to lose."

The study is published online in the journal Lancet Neurology.

- Shari Roan

Photo: Artistic image of tissue plasminogen activator. Credit: University of Wisconsin.