Antithrombotic therapy for ischemic stroke: guidelines translated for the clinician
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Acute ischemic stroke is the result of abrupt interruption of focal cerebral blood flow. The majority of ischemic strokes are caused by embolic or thrombotic arterial occlusions. Acute stroke management is complex, in part because of the varying etiologies of stroke and the very brief window of time for reperfusion therapy. Efforts to optimize stroke care have also encountered barriers including low public awareness of stroke symptoms. As initiatives move forward to improve stroke care worldwide, health care providers and institutions are being called onto deliver the most current evidence-based care. Updated versions of three major guidelines were published in 2008 by the American College of Chest Physicians, the American Heart Association, and the European Stroke Organization. This article presents a concise overview of current recommendations for the use of fibrinolytic therapy for acute ischemic stroke and antithrombotic therapy for secondary prevention. Future directions are also reviewed, with particular emphasis on improving therapeutic options early after stroke onset.