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The FDA approved the tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) for the treatment of stroke in 1996. This was a major advance in the treatment of stroke since tPA can be used to treat ischemic strokes caused by blood clots, which constitute 80% of all strokes. Thus far, tPA is the only drug that carries the indication of treating ischemic stroke. Studies have shown that tPA can significantly reduce the debilitating effects of stroke and minimize permanent disability, if administered promptly. For maximum benefit, the therapy must be started within three hours of the onset of stroke symptoms. Therefore, it’s critical that caregivers, medical professionals, and the public recognize stroke as a medical emergency and respond immediately by calling 911 and getting the patient to the hospital.1
tPA carries a risk of bleeding in the brain, but its benefits outweigh the risks when used correctly by an experienced physician. Because of the risk for bleed, not every stroke patient, especially those suffering a hemorrhagic stroke, should receive treatment with tPA.