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Medications for Stroke

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by Polsdorfer R
 
The information provided here is meant to give you a general idea about each of the medications listed below. Only the most general side effects are included, so ask your doctor if you need to take any special precautions. Use each of these medications as recommended by your doctor, or according to the instructions provided. If you have further questions about usage or side effects, call your doctor.
If it is determined that you had an ischemic stroke within 4½ hours of the beginning of your symptoms, you may be treated with IV clot-busting medications designed to limit damage and possibly restore blood flow to the involved areas of your brain. If it is within approximately 6 hours of the onset of your symptoms, you may be treated with intra-arterial (IA) clot-busting medications. IAs are administered via a groin incision. A catheter is advanced to the clot where medications are given directly to the clot. (These therapies are not used for hemorrhagic strokes.)
Other medications are given after the immediate danger has passed to prevent a second stroke or manage potential damage. Medications may include:
  • Alteplase
  • Heparin
  • Warfarin
  • Dabigatran
  • Aspirin
  • Clopidogrel
  • Aspirin and dipyridamole
 

Anticoagulants

Common names include:
  • Heparin
  • Warfarin
  • Dabigatran
Heparin
Given by injection, heparin works immediately to prevent blood clotting. If there is a risk of bleeding from an infected area or a large brain-damaged area, this medication may not be used.
Possible side effects include:
Warfarin
Warfarin prevents formation of a blood-clotting factor by interfering with vitamin K metabolism. It takes several days to have an effect. Warfarin is frequently given along with heparin. The heparin is discontinued when the warfarin is fully active. Warfarin can be taken by mouth. But, it must be controlled within very close limits to prevent unwanted bleeding.
The dose of warfarin varies widely and is regulated by frequent blood tests that check on clotting ability. These tests are done at least weekly at the beginning of treatment. This is because there are so many interactions that can change its effect. Warfarin decreases the recurrence rate of embolic stroke in people with atrial fibrillation, which is a common cause of embolic stroke.
Possible side effects include:
  • Bleeding
  • Nausea
  • Rash
Dabigatran
Dabigatran is a medication that helps to prevent blood clots. It can be taken by mouth and does not require frequent blood tests.
Possible side effects include:
  • Bleeding
  • Nausea, stomach pain, or bloating
  • Rash
Rivaroxaban
Rivaraoxaban is a medication used to decrease the risk of strokes in people with irregular heartbeat known as non-valvular atrial fibrillation.
Possible side effects include bleeding.

Antiplatelet Therapy

Aspirin and Dipyridamole
This medication is used to reduce risk of stroke in people who have had transient ischemia attacks (TIA) or a prior stroke due to blood clots. Dipyridamole may be more effective than aspirin alone. Side effects include:
  • Headache
  • Stomach pain, heartburn
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
Clopidogrel
Clopidogrel is used to prevent heart attack and stroke. Clopidogrel can be used in people who cannot take aspirin or who have a coronary stent. Possible side effects include:
  • Lightheadedness
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Stomach pain, heartburn
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Headache

Special Considerations

If you are taking medications, follow these general guidelines:
  • Take your medication as directed. Do not change the amount or the schedule.
  • Do not stop taking them without talking to your doctor.
  • Do not share them.
  • Ask what the results and side effects may be. Report them to your doctor.
  • Some drugs can be dangerous when mixed. Talk to a doctor or pharmacist if you are taking more than one drug. This includes over-the-counter medication and herb or dietary supplements.
  • Plan ahead for refills so you do not run out.
 

References


Anticoagulation therapy for acute stroke. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated May 6, 2014. Accessed June 16, 2014.


Antiplatelet therapy for acute stroke. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated May 14, 2014. Accessed June 16, 2014.


Bushnell C, McCullough LD, et al. Guidelines for the prevention of stroke in women: a statement for healthcare professionals from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Stroke. 2014;45(5):1545-1588. Available at: http://stroke.ahajournals.org/content/early/2014/02/06/01.str.0000442009.06663.48.full.pdf. Accessed June 16, 2014.


Carpenter C, Keim, et al. Thrombolytic therapy for acute ischemic stroke beyond three hours. J Emerg Med. 2011;40(1):82-92.


Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) prophylaxis for medical patients. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com. Updated June 16, 2014. Accessed June 16, 2014.


Furie KL, Kasner SE, et al. Guidelines for the Prevention of Stroke in Patients With Stroke or Transient Ischemic Attack: A Guideline for Healthcare Professionals From the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Stroke. 2011;42(1):227-276. Available at: http://stroke.ahajournals.org/content/early/2010/10/21/STR.0b013e3181f7d043.full.pdf. Accessed June 16, 2014.


Stroke (acute management). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated May 22, 2014. Accessed June 16, 2014.


Thrombolytics for acute stroke. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated June 12, 2014. Accessed June 16, 2014.


10/22/2007 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: Lampl Y, Boaz M, Gilad R. Minocycline treatment in acute stroke: an open-label, evaluator-blinded study. Neurology. 2007;69:1404-1410.

 

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