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The Pros and Cons of tPA as Stroke Treatment

Strokes are a leading cause of death worldwide, with approximately 800,000 people suffering from one every year. While strokes used to be quite deadly, they have become less so over the years with improved management of cardiovascular risk factors, greater awareness of symptoms, and novel treatments.

One such treatment, the tissue plasminogen activator (tPA), works to dissolve clots that block blood flow to the brain. This treatment has become controversial because it can be helpful to some patients and quite harmful to others. Learn more about the benefits and risks of tPA as a stroke treatment and what you can do if you have been harmed from the improper implementation of this treatment.

What Happens During a Stroke?

There are two types of strokes: ischemic and hemorrhagic. Ischemic strokes are caused by the blockage of an artery in the brain; approximately 87% of strokes are ischemic. Hemorrhagic strokes are caused by bleeding in the brain; approximately 13% of strokes are hemorrhagic. The treatment a patient receives depends on the type of stroke they have.

For ischemic strokes, physicians may recommend the following treatments to quickly restore blood flow to the brain:

  • Emergency IV medication, including tPA. tPA is usually given to stroke patients within the first three hours of a stroke. tPA may dissolve the clot causing the ischemic stroke, and help patients more fully recover.
  • Emergency endovascular procedures. Physicians may decide to remove the clot directly, such as by inserting a catheter through a vein, threading it into the brain, and delivering tPA directly. Another option is to remove the clot with a stent, which could be beneficial for larger clots that tPA cannot dissolve on its own.

For hemorrhagic strokes, physicians may recommend the following treatments to control the bleeding in the brain:

  • Emergency medications. Physicians may give patients drugs to lower the blood pressure in the brain (intracranial pressure), prevent spasms of the blood vessels, and prevent seizures.
  • Surgery. Surgery may be used to remove large amounts of blood in the brain or repair blood vessels associated with the stroke.
  • Stereotactic radiosurgery. This less-invasive procedure uses beams of focused radiation to repair blood vessel malformations.

scan of the brain

Understanding tPA as a Stroke Treatment

tPA is often used to treat ischemic strokes. It must be administered to the patient within three hours of the stroke’s onset, as approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). There are several benefits and risks of tPA as a stroke treatment, including the following:

Benefits of tPA

tPA can be quite beneficial in dissolving blood clots and improving a patient’s odds of recovering from a stroke. At the very least, tPA may make the long-term effects of a stroke less devastating. However, the benefits of tPA depend largely on when it is administered.

Risks of tPA

In certain situations, tPA can cause more harm than good when treating a stroke. This is particularly true if tPA is administered outside the recommended time frame. When administered incorrectly, tPA can cause additional bleeding in the brain without doing much to treat the stroke. According to the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre, the chance of bleeding into the brain in patients who receive tPA is about 3% as opposed to only 0.2% for those who do not.

If bleeding into the brain occurs after tPA is given, the stroke symptoms may become worse and may even result in death for the patient.


Suffered from Medical Malpractice After a Stroke? Contact Us Today

Strokes are serious medical events that require prompt and accurate treatment. If you suffered a stroke and your physician either did not administer the proper treatment or administered a treatment incorrectly, our Baltimore medical malpractice attorneys can determine whether you have a case. You may be entitled to significant compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and more.

Call Brown & Barron, LLC at (410) 698-1717 to schedule a free consultation.

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