Alteplase, an intravenously administered form of recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (rt-PA), remains the only US FDA-approved thrombolytic treatment for acute ischemic stroke within 3 h of symptom onset. Patients treated with intravenous rt-PA are at least 30% more likely to have minimal or no disability at 3 months compared with placebo. Despite an increased risk of symptomatic intracranial hemorrhage, rt-PA does not increase mortality. The benefit achieved with rt-PA is cost effective and sustained 1 year after treatment. Despite its clear benefit, rt-PA remains underutilized. Although the future of acute ischemic stroke treatment will most likely involve a multi-faceted treatment approach, the primary objective remains to establish recanalization of the involved vessel. For patients with acute ischemic stroke within the first 3 h of symptom onset, rt-PA remains the first step in accomplishing this goal.