Review, historical context, and clarifications of the NINDS rt-PA stroke trials exclusion criteria: Part 1: Rapidly improving stroke symptoms

Steven R. Levine, Pooja Khatri, Joseph P. Broderick, James C. Grotta, Scott E. Kasner, Doojin Kim, Brett C. Meyer, Peter Panagos, Jose Romano, Phillip Scott

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

67 Scopus citations


Background and Purpose - Since Food and Drug Administration approval of intravenous tissue-type plasminogen activator (tPA) for treatment of acute ischemic stroke in 1996, it has become clear that several criteria used for exclusion from therapy were not based on actual data or operationally defined for use in clinical practice. All eligibility criteria from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) recombinant tPA Stroke Study were adopted within the alteplase package insert as contraindications/ warnings. Many clinicians have expressed the need for clarification and better definition of these treatment criteria. Methods - A group of investigators who also practice as stroke physicians convened a collaborative endeavor to work toward developing more clinically meaningful and consensus-driven exclusion criteria for intravenous tPA. The first of these exclusion criteria chosen was rapidly improving stroke symptoms (RISS). We reviewed and clarified the historical context and intention with the original investigators, held e-mail discussions, convened an in-person RISS Summit, and obtained the understanding of experienced stroke physicians broadly. Results - Historically, the intent of this exclusion criterion within the NINDS recombinant tPA Stroke Trial was to avoid treatment of transient ischemic attacks - who would have recovered completely without treatment. There was unanimous consensus that, in the absence of other contraindications, patients who experience improvement of any degree, but have a persisting neurological deficit that is potentially disabling, should be treated with intravenous tPA. This statement is supported from the methods established for the original NINDS trial, on the basis of detailed discussions and interviews with the former NINDS trialists. It was agreed that improvement should only be monitored for the extent of time needed to prepare and administer the intravenous tPA bolus/infusion. An explicit operational definition of RISS was developed by consensus to guide future decision making in acute stroke. There was unanimous agreement that all neurological deficits present at the time of the treatment decision should be considered in the context of individual risk and benefit, as well as the patient's baseline functional status. Conclusions - A structured framework and quantitative approach toward defining RISS emerged through expert opinion and consensus. The term, RISS, should be reserved for those who improve to a mild deficit, specifically one which is perceived to be nondisabling. This is recommended to guide decision making on intravenous tPA eligibility going forward, including the design of future studies. An additional study of patients with rapid improvement to nonmild deficits is not justified because these patients should be treated.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2500-2505
Number of pages6
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2013


  • Cerebral infarction
  • Clinical trials
  • Patient selection
  • TIA
  • Thrombolysis
  • Tissue-type plasminogen activator


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