Patients with acute ischemic stroke should be immediately transported to the nearest hospital for rapid evaluation and treatment. Intravenous t-PA within 3 hours of symptom onset is the recommended treatment for patients who meet the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) study eligibility criteria. Patients should be informed of the risk of symptomatic cerebral hemorrhage, and strict adherence to the NINDS study protocol is strongly recommended to optimize the risk-benefit ratio. Ischemic stroke patients who are not eligible for t-PA therapy should usually be started on aspirin. Intravenous heparin is not recommended as a standard treatment but may be considered for specific patient subgroups. Low-dose subcutaneous heparin is recommended for prophylaxis of deep vein thrombosis in immobilized patients. Management of stroke patients by a designated stroke team is recommended to facilitate prompt diagnosis and treatment and early initiation of rehabilitation therapy. We also recommend that physicians who manage patients with acute stroke maintain contact with local or regional stroke centers to facilitate referral of appropriate patients for intensive care or specialized diagnostic tests or therapies.
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