Obtaining a routine computed tomography (CT) brain scan 24 hours after treatment with intravenous tissue plasminogen activator (IV-tPA) is included in the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association acute stroke guidelines. The usefulness of the test in stable patients is not known. We hypothesized that the results of routine, 24-hour post-treatment neuroimaging (CT or magnetic resonance imaging [MRI] brain scans) would not alter the management of clinically stable patients.
Patients treated with IV-tPA between January 2011 and December 2013 were identified from a single hospital's stroke registry. All patients were closely monitored for changes in stroke severity. Demographics, changes in neurological status, neuroimaging results, and changes in therapy were abstracted from the patients' medical records. Patients having a neuroimaging study because of neurological deterioration were excluded.
Of 136 patients treated with IV-tPA, 131 met criteria for inclusion. Of these, 86.7% had moderate to severe neurological deficits (i.e., initial National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale score > 5 points; median 8 points). All patients had routine imaging ~24 hours after treatment (CT brain 62.6%, MRI brain 12.4%, both CT and MRI brain 25%). Asymptomatic hemorrhagic transformation occurred in 6.7% and potentially changed management in a single patient (target systolic blood pressure was lowered from 185 to 180 mmHg).
Over a 3-year period, routine neuroimaging ~24-hours after IV-tPA in clinically stable patients was associated with a change in therapy in only 1 (.95%) patient. If confirmed in other cohorts, these results suggest that routine neuroimaging after IV-tPA may be safely avoided in clinically stable patients, eliminating unnecessary radiation exposure in those having CT brain and reducing costs.
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Published online: December 08, 2015
Accepted: November 4, 2015
Received in revised form: October 30, 2015
Received: September 25, 2015
© 2016 National Stroke Association. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.