Revolution in acute ischaemic stroke care: a practical guide to mechanical thrombectomy

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Rapid, safe and effective arterial recanalisation to restore blood flow and improve functional outcome remains the primary goal of hyperacute ischaemic stroke management. The benefit of intravenous thrombolysis with recombinant tissue-type plasminogen activator for patients with severe stroke due to large artery occlusion is limited; early recanalisation is generally less than 30% for carotid, proximal middle cerebral artery or basilar artery occlusion. Since November 2014, nine positive randomised controlled trials of mechanical thrombectomy for large vessel occlusion in the anterior circulation have led to a revolution in the care of patients with acute ischaemic stroke. Its efficacy is unmatched by any previous therapy in stroke medicine, with a number needed to treat of less than 3 for improved functional outcome. With effectiveness shown beyond any reasonable doubt, the key challenge now is how to implement accessible, safe and effective mechanical thrombectomy services. This review aims to provide neurologists and other stroke physicians with a summary of the evidence base, a discussion of practical aspects of delivering the treatment and future challenges. We aim to give guidance on some of the areas not clearly described in the clinical trials (based on evidence where available, but if not, on our own experience and practice) and highlight areas of uncertainty requiring further research.

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