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Are doctors failing to appropriately treat stroke patients?

More than twenty years ago, a medication was developed that can save lives and reduce the disabling impacts of a stroke. Known as tissue plasminogen activator (or “T.P.A.”), this medication is now considered the gold standard for the treatment of ischemic strokes by the American Stroke Association.

Generally speaking, there are two types of strokes that can occur—ischemic stroke or hemorrhagic stroke. An ischemic stroke occurs when there is an obstruction to one of the vessels that supplies blood to the brain. A hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel ruptures and bleeds into the area surrounding the brain. T.P.A. can only be used to treat ischemic strokes. When timely used to treat an ischemic stroke, it can be a brain-saving treatment.


However, many doctors refuse to use T.P.A. to treat ischemic strokes, believing it to be harmful. A recent article in the New York Times highlighted this debate. The principal physician who developed T.P.A continues to strongly support the use of the drug in patients suffering from an ischemic stroke. Others believe that that there is uncertainty over the effectiveness of T.P.A. and think it can do more harm than good. The skeptics, while a minority, are using social media to share their thoughts. As a result, physicians learn about T.P.A. through the web instead of from a more reliable source, such as a medical journal.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 800,000 people have a stroke in the United States every day, and 87% of those strokes are ischemic strokes. Unfortunately, up to 30% of people who are eligible to receive T.P.A. do not receive it. Many doctors do not tell patients or their families that T.P.A. could have been a treatment option.

Read the article from The New York Times