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Use of Key Clot-Busting Stroke Drug Is Rising

Study Shows More Americans Are Now Using tPA in the Hours After a Stroke

Ask for tPA, Expert Says

"I think this is terrific news that the use of the most effective drug for acute [ischemic] stroke is up," says Ralph Sacco, MD, president of the American Heart Association and chair of neurology at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine.

He reviewed the study findings for WebMD but did not take part in the research.

"We used to quote numbers like 1%," he tells WebMD. "Now the numbers could be as high as 5.2%."

He agrees that the growing number of hospitals equipped to care for stroke is one major reason for the increase.

"Nearly 85% of people in the U.S. live within 60 minutes of an acute stroke hospital," he says, citing American Heart Association statistics.

"The biggest issue is still public awareness of stroke symptoms," he says. "The public still doesn't recognize stroke quickly enough."

Some stroke patients will not be able to get tPA, he says, because they have surpassed the 4.5-hour window.

Even within an ideal time window, not everyone is a candidate for tPA, Sacco says. Those on certain blood thinners, for instance, may not be approved if there is a risk of bleeding that could bring on brain hemorrhage.

He offers this advice to those who think they may be having a stroke and their loved ones: "Call 911. Know where the closest stroke center is. Be aware of treatments. Ask, 'Can I have the clot buster?'"

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