J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 82:712-717 doi:10.1136/jnnp.2010.223149
  • Review

Intravenous thrombolysis in acute ischaemic stroke: a systematic review and meta-analysis to aid decision making in patients over 80 years of age

Editor's Choice
  1. Anthony O'Brien1
  1. 1Southend University Hospital NHS Trust, Southend on Sea, UK
  2. 2Centre for Applied Medical Statistics, University of Cambridge, Institute of Public Health, Cambridge, UK
  1. Correspondence to Dr P Guyler, Department of Stroke Medicine, Southend Hospital NHS Trust, Prittlewell Chase, Southend on Sea SS00RY, UK; paul.guyler{at}
  • Received 8 July 2010
  • Revised 17 December 2010
  • Accepted 21 December 2010
  • Published Online First 3 February 2011


Introduction Patients ≥80 years of age are increasingly receiving intravenous thrombolysis for acute ischaemic stroke (AIS) despite lack of firm evidence. This systematic review assesses the safety and efficacy of intravenous thrombolysis with alteplase in ≥80 versus <80 year old patients with AIS.

Methods The existing literature was systematically analysed for outcome measures of mortality, functional recovery by modified Rankin scale and symptomatic intracranial haemorrhage (SICH) at 3 months following intravenous thrombolysis with alteplase in <80 and ≥80 year old patients with AIS. Statistical tests were performed for heterogeneity and publication bias. A detailed sensitivity analysis was performed and Forest plot was constructed for each of the outcome measures.

Results 13 studies were identified. The overall OR was 2.77 (95% CI 2.25 to 3.40) for death, 0.49 (95% CI 0.40 to 0.61) for achieving a favourable outcome and 1.31 (95% CI 0.93 to 1.84) for SICH in ≥80 year old patients compared with those <80 years old. The total number of events contributing to the estimates of effect for each outcome was: death 199, favourable outcome 141 and SICH 49.

Conclusion Patients ≥80 years of age appear to have a lower probability of gaining a favourable outcome and a higher mortality rate compared with patients <80 years old; however, the rate of SICH was not significantly increased. This supports recruitment of patients aged ≥80 years into ongoing trials comparing thrombolysis with controls. For patients who refuse or cannot be randomised, it provides information on risks and benefits of using alteplase off-licence.


  • Competing interests None.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

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