Minor stroke due to large artery occlusion. When is intravenous thrombolysis not enough? Results from the SITS International Stroke Thrombolysis Register

Michael V Mazya, Charith Cooray, Kennedy R Lees, Danilo Toni, Gary A Ford, Michal Bar, Senta Frol, Tiago Moreira, Lakshmanan Sekaran, Viktor Švigelj, Nils Wahlgren, Niaz Ahmed
European Stroke Journal 2018, 3 (1): 29-38

Purpose: Beyond intravenous thrombolysis, evidence is lacking on acute treatment of minor stroke caused by large artery occlusion. To identify candidates for additional endovascular therapy, we aimed to determine the frequency of non-haemorrhagic early neurological deterioration in patients with intravenous thrombolysis-treated minor stroke caused by occlusion of large proximal and distal cerebral arteries. Secondary aims were to establish risk factors for non-haemorrhagic early neurological deterioration and report three-month outcomes in patients with and without non-haemorrhagic early neurological deterioration.

Method: We analysed data from the SITS International Stroke Thrombolysis Register on 2553 patients with intravenous thrombolysis-treated minor stroke (NIH Stroke Scale scores 0-5) and available arterial occlusion data. Non-haemorrhagic early neurological deterioration was defined as an increase in NIH Stroke Scale score ≥4 at 24 h, without parenchymal hematoma on follow-up imaging within 22-36 h.

Findings: The highest frequency of non-haemorrhagic early neurological deterioration was seen in 30% of patients with terminal internal carotid artery or tandem occlusions (internal carotid artery + middle cerebral artery) (adjusted odds ratio: 10.3 (95% CI 4.3-24.9), p < 0.001) and 17% in extracranial carotid occlusions (adjusted odds ratio 4.3 (2.5-7.7), p < 0.001) versus 3.1% in those with no occlusion. Proximal middle cerebral artery-M1 occlusions had non-haemorrhagic early neurological deterioration in 9% (adjusted odds ratio 2.1 (0.97-4.4), p = 0.06). Among patients with any occlusion and non-haemorrhagic early neurological deterioration, 77% were dead or dependent at three months.

Conclusions: Patients with minor stroke caused by internal carotid artery occlusion, with or without tandem middle cerebral artery involvement, are at high risk of disabling deterioration, despite intravenous thrombolysis treatment. Acute vessel imaging contributes usefully even in minor stroke to identify and consider endovascular treatment, or intensive monitoring at a comprehensive stroke centre, for patients at high risk of neurological deterioration.

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