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BACKGROUND: The effect of alteplase on patient survival after ischaemic stroke is the subject of debate. We report the effect of intravenous alteplase on long-term survival after ischaemic stroke of participants in the Third International Stroke Trial (IST-3). METHODS: In IST-3, done at 156 hospitals in 12 countries (Australia, Europe, and the UK), participants (aged >18 years) were randomly assigned with a telephone voice-activated or web-based system in a 1:1 ratio to treatment with intravenous 0·9 mg/kg alteplase plus standard care or standard care alone within 6 h of ischaemic stroke. We followed up participants in the UK and Scandinavia (Sweden and Norway) for survival up to 3 years after randomisation using data from national registries and compared survival in the two groups with proportional hazards survival analysis, adjusting for key prognostic variables. IST-3 is registered with the ISRCTN registry, number ISRCTN25765518. FINDINGS: Between May 5, 2000, and July 27, 2011, 3035 participants were enrolled in IST-3. Of these, 1948 (64%) of 3035 participants were scheduled for analysis of 3 year survival, and 1946 (>99%) of these were included in the analysis (967 [50%] in the alteplase plus standard care group and 979 [50%] in the standard care alone group). By 3 years after randomisation, 453 (47%) of 967 participants in the alteplase plus standard care group and 494 (50%) of 979 in the standard care alone group had died (risk difference 3·6% [95% CI -0·8 to 8·1]). Participants allocated to alteplase had a significantly higher hazard of death during the first 7 days (99 [10%] of 967 died in the alteplase plus standard care group vs 65 [7%] of 979 in the standard care alone group; hazard ratio 1·52 [95% CI 1·11-2·08]; p=0·004) and a significantly lower hazard of death between 8 days and 3 years (354 [41%] of 868 vs 429 [47%] of 914; 0·78 [0·68-0·90]; p=0·007). INTERPRETATION: Alteplase treatment within 6 h after ischaemic stroke was associated with a small, non-significant reduction in risk of death at 3 years, but among individuals who survived the acute phase, treatment was associated with a significant increase in long-term survival. These results are reassuring for clinicians who have expressed concerns about the effect of alteplase on survival. FUNDING: Heart and Stroke Scotland, UK Medical Research Council, Health Foundation UK, Stroke Association UK, Research Council of Norway, AFA Insurance, Swedish Heart Lung Fund, Foundation of Marianne and Marcus Wallenberg, Polish Ministry of Science and Education, Australian Heart Foundation, Australian National Health and Medical Research Council, Swiss National Research Foundation, Swiss Heart Foundation, Assessorato alla Sanita (Regione dell'Umbria), and Danube University.

Original publication




Journal article


Lancet Neurol

Publication Date





1028 - 1034


Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Brain Ischemia, Female, Fibrinolytic Agents, Follow-Up Studies, Humans, Male, Outcome Assessment, Health Care, Stroke, Survival Analysis, Tissue Plasminogen Activator