Neuro updates: Longer stroke window; hold the fresh frozen plasma



– Hospitalists in attendance at a Rapid Fire session at the Society of Hospital Medicine’s annual conference came away with updated information about stroke and intracranial hemorrhage, among the neurologic emergencies commonly seen in hospitalized patients.

Aaron Lord, MD, chief of neurocritical care at New York University Langone Health, provided hopeful news about thrombectomy for ischemic stroke and confirmed the importance of blood pressure management in intracranial hemorrhage in his review of several common neurologic emergencies.

Dr. Lord said that, for ischemic stroke, the evidence is now very good for mechanical thrombectomy, with newer data pointing to a prolonged treatment window for some patients.

Though IV tissue plasminogen activator (TPA) is the only Food and Drug Administration–approved pharmacologic treatment for acute stroke, said Dr. Lord, “It’s good, but it’s not perfect. It doesn’t necessarily target the clot or concentrate in it. ... The big kicker is that not all patients are candidates for IV TPA. They either present too late or have comorbidities.”

“Frustratingly, even for those who do present on time, TPA doesn’t work for everyone. This is especially true for large or long clots,” said Dr. Lord. In 2015, he said, a half-dozen trials examining mechanical thrombectomy for acute stroke were all positive, giving assurance to physicians and patients of this therapy’s efficacy within the 6-8 hour acute stroke window. Pooled analysis of the 2015 trials showed a number needed to treat (NNT) of 5 for regaining functional independence, and a NNT of 2.6 for decreased disability.

Further, he said, two additional trials have examined thrombectomy’s utility when patients have a large stroke penumbra, with a relatively small core infarct, using “tissue-based parameters rather than time” to select patients for thrombectomy. “These trials were just as positive as the initial trials,” said Dr. Lord; the trials showed NNTs of 2.9 and 3.6 for reduced disability in a population of patients who were 6-24 hours poststroke.

The takeaway for hospitalists? Even when it’s unknown how much time has passed since the onset of stroke symptoms, step No. 1 is still to activate the stroke team’s resources, giving patients the best hope for recovery. “We now have the luxury of treating patients up to 24 hours. This has revolutionized the way that we treat acute stroke,” said Dr. Lord.

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