BACKGROUND Optimal treatment strategy in patients with mild ischemic stroke remains uncertain. While functional dependency or death has been reported in up to one-third of non-thrombolyzed mild ischemic stroke patients, intravenous thrombolysis is currently not recommended in this patient group. Emerging evidence suggests two risk factors-rapid early improvement and large vessel occlusion-as main associates of unfavorable outcome in mild ischemic stroke patients not undergoing intravenous thrombolysis.
AIMS To analyze natural course as well as safety and three-month outcome of intravenous thrombolysis in mild ischemic stroke without rapid early improvement or large vessel occlusion.
METHODS Mild ischemic stroke was defined by a National Institute of Health Stroke Scale score ≤6. We used the modified Rankin Scale (mRS) to compare three-month functional outcome in 370 consecutive mild ischemic stroke patients without early rapid improvement and without large vessel occlusion, who either underwent intravenous thrombolysis (n = 108) or received best medical treatment (n = 262).
RESULTS Favorable outcome (mRS ≤ 1) was common in both groups (intravenous thrombolysis: 91%; no intravenous thrombolysis: 90%). Although intravenous thrombolysis use was independently associated with a higher risk of asymptomatic hemorrhagic transformation (OR = 4.62, = 0.002), intravenous thrombolysis appeared as an independent predictor of mRS = 0 at three months (OR = 3.33, < 0.0001).
CONCLUSIONS Mild ischemic stroke patients without rapidly improving symptoms and without large vessel occlusion have a high chance of favorable three-month outcome, irrespective of treatment type. Patients receiving intravenous thrombolysis, however, more often achieved complete remission of symptoms, which particularly in mild ischemic stroke may constitute a meaningful endpoint.