Pharmacologic management of ischemic stroke: Relevance to stem cell therapy

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Pharmacologic management of the acute phase of the ischemic stroke includes treating the physical and medical conditions that can worsen cerebral injury; administering intravenous thrombolytic therapy (recombinant tissue plasminogen activator) in those who meet current guidelines; instituting prophylactic measures to prevent medical complications; and initiating passive rehabilitation measures. New approaches under investigation include intra-arterial thrombolytic therapy; endovascular embolectomy and clot disruption; and neuroprotective treatments to preserve surviving ischemic tissue. One neuroprotective agent given within 6 h after stroke onset, NXY059, recently met the primary outcome measure in a phase III clinical trial. Pharmacologic management of the subacute and chronic phases involves treatment of risk factors for recurrent stroke and other forms of cardiovascular disease, including hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, and diabetes mellitus. In this phase, antiplatelet therapy can be initiated or continued; smoking, obesity and alcohol intake can be managed; and active rehabilitation can begin through physical, occupational, and speech therapy. A few medications to augment rehabilitation have shown promising results in small clinical trials, but none have been tested in large phase III trials or approved by the US or European regulatory agencies. Thus, there are no pharmacologic measures available to enhance central nervous system restorative processes after acute stroke, and implantation of stem cells provides one promising approach, not only for cell replacement but also for the provision of therapeutic molecules.

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