What are the benefits of aspirin and other antiplatelet agents in the treatment of ischemic stroke?

Updated: May 27, 2020
  • Author: Edward C Jauch, MD, MS, FAHA, FACEP; Chief Editor: Helmi L Lutsep, MD  more...
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The International Stroke Trial and the Chinese Acute Stroke Trial (CAST) demonstrated modest benefit from the use of aspirin in the setting of acute ischemic stroke. The International Stroke Trial randomized 19,435 patients within 48 hours of stroke onset to treatment with aspirin 325 mg, subcutaneous heparin in 2 different dose regimens, aspirin with heparin, and a placebo. The study found that aspirin therapy reduced the risk of stroke recurrence within 14 days (2.8% vs 3.9%), with no significant excess of hemorrhagic strokes. [98, 99]

In CAST, which included 21,106 patients, aspirin treatment (160 mg/day) that was started within 48 hours of the onset of suspected acute ischemic stroke and was continued in hospital for up to 4 weeks reduced mortality to 3.3%, compared with 3.9% with placebo. A separate study also found that the combination of aspirin and low–molecular-weight heparin did not significantly improve outcomes. [98]

Other antiplatelet agents have also been under evaluation for use in the acute presentation of ischemic stroke. In a preliminary pilot study, abciximab given within 6 hours showed a trend toward improved outcome at 3 months. [100] However, the phase 3 Abciximab in Emergency Treatment of Stroke Trial (AbESTT-II) was terminated prematurely after 808 patients because of lack of efficacy and an increased rate of symptomatic or fatal intracranial hemorrhage in patients receiving abciximab. [101]

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