Stroke drug could be more widely used to clear brain blood clots

Scientists say their study confirms that the drug alteplase consistently aids recovery for stroke patients.

By Brooks Hays

EDINBURGH, Scotland, April 9 (UPI) -- Previously, doctors have been wary of administering a blood clot-clearing drug called alteplase to stroke patients whose brain scans show tissue damage. But a new study suggests the drug is beneficial and safe for most patients, and that tissue damage likely doesn't represent an increased risk of bleeding.

Bleeding inside the brain can prove fatal, so naturally doctors are reluctant to thin the blood of patients with possible brain tissue damage. Research by doctors at the University of Edinburgh, however, shows that alterplase doesn't increase a patient's risk of suffering a bleed, even if there's evidence of tissue damage on their MRI results.


While patients who exhibit signs of tissue damage are still less likely to make a full recovery, alterplase consistently aids recovery and is, in most cases, worth prescribing -- according to the results of the new study.

The study showed that only when patients show multiple signs of an increased bleeding risk should doctors consider withholding alterplase. For patients who showed old tissue damage from other diseases as well as signs of a fresh blood clot, just 14 percent proved more likely to suffer a hemorrhage after receiving alteplase.


"Bleeding in the brain is the main side effect of alteplase, so if we can avoid that hazard, then patients are more likely to benefit," said study author Joanna Wardlaw, professor at Edinburgh's School of Clinical Sciences.

The analysis was made possible by a clinical study involving some 3,000 stroke patients who were administered alteplase. The results were detailed in two studies published in the most recent issue of the journal Lancet Neurology.

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