There was a slight added risk with the drug, however: the researchers also found that tPA increased the risk of dying from brain bleeding by about 2 percent within the first few days after stroke.
One U.S. stroke expert called the new review "powerful."
"The information is very significant because it helps support our concept of 'time is brain' by showing that faster treatment times do result in better outcomes for patients," said Dr. Keith Siller, director of the Stroke Consultative Service at North Shore-LIJ's Cushing Neuroscience Unit in Manhasset, N.Y.
He said that the finding that tPA helped even elderly patients was key, because "there has been a negative bias about offering IV tPA because of concerns about decreased clinical benefit and increased hemorrhage in this subset of patients."
In the Lancet news release, study co-author Kennedy Lees, a professor of cerebrovascular medicine at the University of Glasgow, in Scotland, said that "what this shows is that we are up against the clock when treating ischemic stroke. Every minute counts. People need to be identified quickly and systems need to be in place to get them scanned, diagnosed accurately and then treated within minutes to hours."
The American Heart Association/American Stroke Association has more about stroke treatments.
SOURCES: Rafael Alexander Ortiz, M.D. director, Neuro-Endovascular Surgery/Interventional Neuroradiology and Stroke, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Keith A. Siller, M.D. director, Stroke Consultative Service, North Shore-LIJ's Cushing Neuroscience Institute, Manhasset, N.Y.; The Lancet, news release, Aug. 5, 2014
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