What is tPA?

tPA is a medication that dissolves blood clots. It is called a thrombolytic agent or more commonly referred to as a “clot buster.” tPA is given through a catheter inserted into a vein in the arm (intravenous).

When is IV tPA used?

tPA was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1996 to treat ischemic-type strokes or strokes caused by clots.

tPA is not used to treat hemorrhagic strokes because it could increase the amount of bleeding in or around the brain and possibly cause more damage to the brain tissue. A CT scan or MRI of the head is done to confirm if there is any bleeding in the brain before tPA is given.

tPA has been approved to treat brain attacks within the first three hours after the onset of symptoms. If given promptly, one in three patients who receive tPA resolve their symptoms or have major improvement in their stroke symptoms.

What are the risks of tPA?

Bleeding (hemorrhage) in the brain or in other par ts of the body is the most common risk. In six out of 10 patients treated within three hours, bleeding may occur into the brain and cause further injury. For some, it may cause death or long-term serious disability.

Those who should NOT receive tPA therapy:

  • People who cannot be treated within three hours of their first symptoms
  • Patients with certain medical conditions
  • Patient who have certain types of strokes