Pressor therapy in acute ischemic stroke: systematic review

Amit K Mistri, Thompson G Robinson, John F Potter
Stroke; a Journal of Cerebral Circulation 2006, 37 (6): 1565-71

BACKGROUND AND PURPOSE: Systolic blood pressure (SBP) levels below 140 mm Hg after acute stroke occur in 18% to 25% of patients, and may be associated with adverse outcome, in terms of death and disability. It has thus been proposed that BP elevation in acute ischemic stroke may be beneficial by increasing perfusion to the peri-infarct penumbra, though not only in those with low BP levels.

METHODS: All articles studying BP elevation in the context of acute stroke were identified using a structured search strategy.

RESULTS: Two reviewers independently searched the databases, and 12 relevant publications were identified. All identified publications related to acute ischemic stroke and no articles on pressor therapy in primary hemorrhagic stroke were found. The review included 319 subjects (age: 42 to 88 years, 46% male), with phenylephrine being the most commonly used pressor agent, though 8 studies incorporated volume expansion. Because of small numbers, and varying entry/outcome criteria, no meta-analysis of outcome measures was possible. Overall, in these few studies undertaken, pressor therapy in acute stroke appears feasible and well-tolerated. The benefit and risks in terms of clinical outcomes remains unknown, but intensive monitoring is advised if such therapy is undertaken.

CONCLUSIONS: Theoretical arguments exist for inducing BP elevation in acute ischemic stroke to increase blood flow to the ischemic penumbra across patients with a broad BP range. To date, there have only been a few small trials with inconclusive results. Many questions are still unanswered about the safety and potential benefits of pressor therapy in acute stroke. Hopefully, ongoing trials will answer some of these important questions.

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