Advance preferences regarding thrombolysis in patients at risk for stroke: a cross-sectional study

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Background: It is difficult to obtain informed consent for thrombolysis in stroke patients given the emergency setting, the need for a speedy decision and the effects of neurological deficits.

Aim: To determine the advance preferences for thrombolysis of patients at risk for stroke following discussion of the potential risks and benefits.

Design: Cross-sectional survey.

Methods: Data on benefits and risks of thrombolysis within 3 h and between 3 and 4.5 h after stroke were presented orally, in writing and pictorially to patients attending geriatric and stroke services in a teaching hospital with specified stroke risk factors and preferences for thrombolysis were recorded.

Results: Of the 121 participants, 108 (89.3%; 95% confidence interval [CI] 82.4–93.7) would opt for thrombolysis within the 3-h period and 100 (82.6%; 95% CI 74.9–88.4) within the 3- to 4.5-h period after acute stroke (P = 0.04, McNemar’s test for correlated proportions). Previous stroke or transient ischaemic attack was more common among those who agreed to thrombolysis (54.1% vs. 30.4%, P = 0.04) and those who opted for thrombolysis were significantly more likely to agree to have their preferences recorded and used in the event of a stroke than those who refused thrombolysis (88.8% vs. 30.4%, P = 0.002).

Conclusion: Advance discussion of the potential risks and benefits of thrombolysis in at-risk patients may improve decision making if thrombolysis is being considered and the patient can no longer make a decision.

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