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Keywords:

  • acute ischemic stroke;
  • AIS;
  • pharmacology;
  • neurology

Stroke is the third most common cause of death in the United States and is the number one cause of long-term disability. Legislative mandates, largely the result of the American Heart Association, American Stroke Association, and Brain Attack Coalition working cooperatively, have resulted in nationwide standardization of care for patients who experience a stroke. Transport to a skilled facility that can provide optimal care, including immediate treatment to halt or reverse the damage caused by stroke, must occur swiftly. Admission to a certified stroke center is recommended for improving outcomes. Most strokes are ischemic in nature. Acute ischemic stroke is a heterogeneous group of vascular diseases, which makes targeted treatment challenging. To provide a thorough review of the literature since the 2007 acute ischemic stroke guidelines were developed, we performed a search of the MEDLINE database (January 1, 2004-July 1, 2009) for relevant English-language studies. Results (through July 1, 2009) from clinical trials included in the Internet Stroke Center registry were also accessed. Results from several pivotal studies have contributed to our knowledge of stroke. Additional data support the efficacy and safety of intravenous alteplase, the standard of care for acute ischemic stroke since 1995. Due to these study results, the American Stroke Association changed its recommendation to extend the time window for administration of intravenous alteplase from within 3 hours to 4.5 hours of symptom onset; this recommendation enables many more patients to receive the drug. Other findings included clinically useful biomarkers, the role of inflammation and infection, an expanded role for placement of intracranial stents, a reduced role for urgent carotid endarterectomy, alternative treatments for large-vessel disease, identification of nontraditional risk factors, including risk factors for women, and newly published pediatric stroke guidelines. In addition, new devices for thrombolectomy are being developed, and neuroprotective therapies such as the use of magnesium, statins, and induced hypothermia are being explored. As treatment interventions become more clearly defined in special subgroups of patients, outcomes in patients with acute ischemic stroke will likely continue to improve.