Introduction: Intravenous recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (IV rtPA) is recommended treatment for acute ischemic stroke patients, but the cost-effectiveness of IV rtPA within different time windows after the onset of acute ischemic stroke is not well reviewed.
Objectives: We conducted a literature review of the cost-effectiveness studies about IV rtPA.
Methods: A literature search was conducted using PubMed, MEDLINE, and EconLit, with the key words stroke, cost, economic benefit, saving, cost-effectiveness, tissue plasminogen activator, and rtPA. The review is limited to original research articles published during 1995–2014 in English-language peer-reviewed journals.
Results: We found 15 studies meeting our criteria for this review. Nine of them were cost-effectiveness studies of IV rtPA treatment within 0-3 hours after stroke onset, 2 studies within 3-4.5 hours, 3 studies within 0-4.5 hours, and 1 study within 0-6 hours. IV rtPA is a cost-saving or a cost-effectiveness strategy from most of the study results. Only one study showed incremental cost-effectiveness ratio of IV rtPA within one year was marginally above $50,000 per QALY threshold. IV rtPA within 0-3 hours after stroke led to cost savings for lifetime or 30 years, and IV rtPA within 3-4.5 hours after stroke increased costs but still was cost-effective.
Conclusions: The literature generally showed that intravenous IV rtPA was a dominant or a cost-effective strategy compared to traditional treatment for acute ischemic stroke patients without IV rtPA. The findings from the literature lacked generalizability because of limited data and various assumptions.