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Didier Leys

, Charlotte Cordonnier

, and Valeria Caso


February 22, 2018: This chapter has been re-evaluated and remains up-to-date. No changes have been necessary.


Recommendations for rt-PA discussed.

Evidence for benefit of mechanical thrombectomy added.

Antidote for dabigatran added.

Evidence that platelet infusion is harmful for patients under antiplatelet drugs who have a cerebral haemorrhage added.

References updated.

Updated on 27 July 2017. The previous version of this content can be found here.
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date: 07 July 2020

Stroke is a major public health issue. Many are treatable in the acute stage, provided patients are admitted soon enough. The overall incidence of stroke in Western countries is approximately 2400 per year per million inhabitants, and 80% are due to cerebral ischaemia. The prevalence is approximately 12 000 per million inhabitants. Stroke is associated with increased long-term mortality, handicap, cognitive and behavioural impairments, recurrence, and an increased risk of other types of vascular events. It is of major interest to take the heterogeneity of stroke into account, because of differences in the acute management, secondary prevention, and outcomes, according to the subtype and cause of stroke. In all types of stroke, early epileptic seizures, delirium, increased intracranial pressure, and non-specific complications are frequent. In ischaemic strokes, specific complications, such as malignant infarcts, spontaneous haemorrhagic transformation, early recurrence, and a new ischaemic event in another vascular territory, are frequent. In haemorrhagic strokes, the major complication is the subsequent increased volume of bleeding. There is strong evidence that stroke patients should be treated in dedicated stroke units; each time 24 patients are treated in a stroke unit, instead of a conventional ward, one death and one dependence are prevented. This effect does not depend on age, severity, and the stroke subtype. For this reason, stroke unit care is the cornerstone of the treatment of stroke, aiming at the detection and management of life-threatening emergencies, stabilization of most physiological parameters, and prevention of early complications. In ischaemic strokes, besides this general management, specific therapies include intravenous recombinant tissue plasminogen activator, given as soon as possible and before 4.5 hours, mechanical thrombectomy in case of proximal occlusion (middle cerebral artery, intracranial internal carotid artery, basilar artery), on top of thrombolysis in the absence of contraindication or alone otherwise, aspirin 300 mg, immediately or after 24 hours in case of thrombolysis, and, in a few patients, decompressive surgery. In intracerebral haemorrhages, blood pressure lowering and haemostatic therapy, when needed, are the two targets, while surgery does not seem effective to reduce death and disability.

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