P07_c_TakingBloodIf your stroke is caused by a blood clot, you may be treated with a clot-busting drug to try to disperse the clot and return the blood supply to your brain.

The medicine itself is called alteplase, or recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (rt-PA). The process of giving this medicine is known as thrombolysis.

Thrombolysis can break down and disperse a clot that is preventing blood from reaching your brain

For most people thrombolysis needs to be given within four and a half hours of your stroke symptoms starting. In some circumstances, however, your doctor may decide that it could still be of benefit within six hours. However the more time that passes, the less effective thrombolysis will be. This is why it’s important to get to hospital as quickly as possible when your symptoms start.
Thrombolysis doesn’t work every time – on in seven people who receive it benefit from the treatment. There is also a risk that thrombolysis can cause harmful bleeding in your brain. This happens in approximately 7% of cases.

Who can have thrombolysis?

Unfortunately not everyone who has an ischaemic stroke is suitable for thrombolysis. At present only 15% of people who are admitted to hospital with a stroke are eligible to receive it. If you are not suitable, it may be because:
  • you had a bleed in in the brain
  • you do not know or cannot tell doctors when your symptoms began
  • you do not reach hospital in time
  • you have a bleeding disorder
  • you have recently had major surgery
  • you have had another stroke or head injury within the past three months
  • your current medication is not compatible with alteplase.

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