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Though the proportion of elderly stroke patients is increasing, patients >80 years are often excluded from clinical stroke trials. We reviewed the management of older patients presenting with acute ischemic stroke (AIS) and assessed the safety and efficacy of recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (rtPA) administration in a community-based setting.A retrospective review of patients >80 years (n = 341) admitted to a community stroke center with AIS were compared to their younger counterparts (n = 690) using the stroke center database from April 2003 to December 2005. Parameters that were measured included admission and discharge NIH Stroke Scale (NIHSS), rate of thrombolytic treatment, the frequency and etiology of thrombolytic exclusion criteria and complications from rtPA for the different aged populations. Additional data were collected for Barthel Index at 12 months.A total of 166 patients underwent thrombolysis. Older patients were not delayed in reaching the hospital within 3 h of stroke onset (182/690, 26%, in the <80 cohort vs. 98/341, 29%, in the ≥80 cohort). Although the overall rates of tPA use were similar in both the young and aged cohort, older patients were less likely to be treated with rtPA because of reasons not listed as exclusion criteria (17% in the <80 cohort vs. 32% in the ≥80 cohort).The older group did not have an excess risk of intracranial hemorrhage following rtPA infusion despite equivalent NIHSS on admission (13.5 in the <80 cohort vs. 12.4 in the ≥80 cohort). Both groups showed improvement in NIHSS following thrombolytic treatment with a drop of 7.7 points in the younger age group and 5.6 points in the older group. Elderly patients treated with rtPA had a comparable 12-month modified Barthel Index score to younger cohorts.Early treatment with rtPA in patients >80 years appears to be both safe and efficacious. Treated patients showed improvements both acutely (a decrease in NIHSS at 72 h) and chronically, as shown by a sustained improvement in the Barthel Index. A large number of elderly patients were excluded from rtPA treatment despite arriving within the time frame of treatment for reasons not considered as traditional exclusion criteria. Older patients with AIS can be treated safely with thrombolytic therapy in a community setting. This therapy should not be withheld on the basis of age.