Stroke Treatment

Clot-busting drugs for stroke treatment

The advent of thrombolytic (“clot-buster”) drugs for the treatment of stroke began in 1996 with the FDA approval of alteplase, or tissue plasminogen activator, for the treatment of ischemic stroke. This drug works to help dissolve the blood clot that led to the stroke.

Stroke treatment timing

In order for alteplase therapy to work, it has to be given as soon as possible after the onset of the stroke symptoms. It should ideally be given within 3 hours of symptom onset, so it is especially important to get a stroke victim to a hospital immediately. Alteplase is given intravenously or, in some cases, directly injected into the affected artery using angiography. If it is delivered into the affected artery, it can be used for up to 6 hours after symptoms began.

Other stroke treatments

Blood-thinning drugs like aspirin and heparin are given in some situations, but it isn't certain that these drugs help stroke symptoms as much as prevent future strokes. Medications to control the blood pressure are given if needed to prevent the stroke from worsening. Oxygen therapy may be needed.

Stroke rehabilitation

Recovery after a stroke involves rehabilitation. Rehab activities may focus on speech therapy to improve speech and swallowing, physical therapy to regain strength, occupational therapy to improve dexterity, and family education and support. The precise type of therapy and outcome depend on the location and severity of the stroke.

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Medically reviewed by Joseph Carcione, DO; American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology


"Stroke Treatment." National Stroke Association.