What is tPA, and why is it important in stroke treatment?

Reza Jahan, MD
Tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) is a clot-buster drug used to treat strokes. It is a protein involved in breaking down blood clots, which are a main cause of strokes. Our bodies make tPA, but not in high enough quantities to dissolve blood clots in the brain.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved tPA to be given within three hours of stroke symptoms. Results from a 2014 European study shows that the treatment window for tPA could be expanded up to four and half hours after symptoms first appear. However, the sooner tPA is given to someone having a stroke caused by a blood clot, the better it works. This means that time is a huge factor in successful stroke treatment.

tPA (tissue plasminogen activator) is a medicine that is given intravenously to treat acute strokes. It is able to dissolve clots within the blood vessels.

Strokes can be caused either by a blockage in an artery leading to the brain (called an ischemic stroke) or by bleeding on the brain (called a hemorrhagic stroke). If a patient who has an ischemic stroke arrives at the hospital in time, he or she may be given tPA. Patients who receive tPA within the first three hours after their first symptoms of stroke seem to have a better chance of recovering and have fewer complications.

Unfortunately, fewer than 5 percent of patients who have ischemic strokes receive this treatment because they do not make it to the hospital in time or they are they are not diagnosed quickly enough after they arrive. That is why it is important to immediately go the hospital if you have symptoms that may be due to a stroke. When possible, go to a primary or comprehensive stroke treatment center that is equipped to diagnose and treat stroke quickly.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.