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Clinical Deterioration Following Improvement in the NINDS rt-PA Stroke Trial

Clinical Deterioration Following Improvement in the NINDS rt-PA Stroke Trial

Clinical Deterioration Following Improvement in the NINDS rt-PA Stroke Trial

Steven R. Levine and Patrick D. Lyden

James C. Grotta, K. M. A. Welch, Susan C. Fagan, Mei Lu, Michael R. Frankel, Thomas Brott,

Clinical Deterioration Following Improvement in the NINDS rt-PA Stroke Trial Print ISSN: 0039-2499. Online ISSN: 1524-4628

Copyright ? 2001 American Heart Association, Inc. All rights reserved.

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2001;32:661-668Stroke.

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Clinical Deterioration Following Improvement in the

NINDS rt-PA Stroke Trial

James C.Grotta,MD;K.M.A.Welch,MD;Susan C.Fagan,Pharm D;Mei Lu,PhD;

Michael R.Frankel,MD;Thomas Brott,MD;Steven R.Levine,MD;Patrick D.Lyden,MD;

and the NINDS rt-PA Stroke Study Group*

Background and Purpose—Little is known in regard to cerebral arterial reocclusion after successful thrombolysis.In the absence of arteriographic information,the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke(NINDS)rt-PA Stroke Trial investigators prospectively identified clinical deterioration following improvement(DFI)as a possible surrogate marker of cerebral arterial reocclusion after rt-PA–induced recanalization.Also,we identified any significant clinical deterioration(CD)even if not preceded by improvement.This observational analysis was designed to determine the incidence of DFI and CD in each treatment group,to identify baseline or posttreatment variables predictive of DFI or CD,and to determine any relationship between DFI,CD,and clinical outcome.

Methods—DFI was defined as any2-point deterioration on the NIH Stroke Scale after an initial2-point improvement after treatment.CD was defined as any4-point worsening after treatment compared with baseline.All data were collected prospectively by investigators blinded to treatment allocation.A noncontrast brain CT was mandated when a2-point deterioration occurred.All cases were validated by a central review committee.

Results—DFI was identified in81of the624patients(13%);44were treated with rt-PA and37were treated with placebo (P?0.48).DFI occurred more often in patients with a higher baseline NIH Stroke Scale score.CD within the first24 hours occurred in98patients(16%of all patients);43were given rt-PA and55were given placebo(P?0.19).Baseline variables associated with CD included a less frequent use of prestroke aspirin and a higher incidence of early CT changes of edema or mass effect or dense middle cerebral artery sign.Patients with CD had higher rates of increased serum glucose and fibrin degradation products,and they also had higher rates of symptomatic intracranial hemorrhage and death.Patients who experienced either DFI or CD were less likely to have a3-month favorable outcome. Conclusions—We found no association between DFI,CD,and rt-PA treatment,and no clinical evidence to suggest reocclusion.Deterioration was strongly associated with stroke severity and poor outcome and was less frequent in patients whose stroke occurred while they were on aspirin.(Stroke.2001;32:661-668.)

Key Words:deteriorationⅢreocclusionⅢstrokeⅢthrombolysis

A t the time the National Institute of Neurological Disor-

ders and Stroke(NINDS)rt-PA Stroke Trial was de-signed,and even at present,the incidence and clinical significance of cerebral arterial reocclusion after opening the vessel by thrombolysis was not known.Yet this information may be important in designing an improved therapeutic strategy.If reocclusion is common and leads to worse clinical outcomes,as it does after coronary thrombolysis,then results of thrombolytic therapy might be improved by adding either antithrombotic therapy,such as anticoagulants or antiplatelet drugs,or by endovascular techniques,such as angioplasty and stenting.On the other hand,if reocclusion occurs only infrequently,the risk of such measures may be unwarranted. The NINDS Trial protocol did not require cerebral arte-riography before or after treatment.On the basis of pilot animal and human data,1–4the NINDS rt-PA Stroke Trial investigators hypothesized that treatment was safest and most effective if started early and that most patients with clinical stroke symptoms persisting up to3hours would harbor an offending arterial occlusion.5These considerations persuaded us not to expend additional time and risk to identify the occlusion by arteriography before treatment.We also de-

Received June26,2000;first revision received November27,2000;accepted December18,2000.

From the Department of Neurology(J.C.G),University of Texas Medical School,Houston;Deparments of Biostatistics and Research Epidemiology (M.L.),Pharmacy Services(M.R.F.),and Neurology(K.M.A.W,S.R.L.),Henry Ford Health Science Center,Detroit,Mich;Department of Neurology (M.R.F.),Emory University Medical School,Atlanta,Ga;Department of Neurology(T.B.),University of Cincinnati School of Medicine,Cincinnati, Ohio;Department of Neurology(S.R.L.),Wayne State University School of Medicine,Detroit,Mich;and the Department of Neurosciences(P.D.L.), University of California,San Diego.

*For a complete list of investigators see Reference6.

Correspondence to James Grotta,MD,Stroke Program,Department of Neurology,University of Texas Medical School,6431Fannin,Houston,Texas 77030.E-mail james.c.grotta@uth.tmc.edu

?2001American Heart Association,Inc.

Stroke is available at http://www.strokeaha.org

cided,in the interest of safety and lack of existing evidence that reocclusion frequently occurred,to prohibit the use of antithrombotic or antiplatelet drugs for the first24hours after randomization to rt-PA or placebo.Although this strategy would eventually lead to a successful outcome,6we recog-nized that we would be unable to answer questions concern-ing arterial recanalization or reocclusion without arteriography.

We undertook2strategies to address the question of recanalization and reocclusion.First,at one clinical site,we used available noninvasive methods,chiefly single-photon emission computed tomography of cerebral perfusion,to identify reperfusion caused by recanalization(presumptive-ly).These results showed a significantly higher rate of reperfusion in rt-PA–treated patients.7The second strategy was to identify a posttreatment clinical profile that might be suggestive of reocclusion after recanalization.We termed this profile“deterioration following improvement”(DFI),and we reasoned that if reocclusion occurred after reperfusion,and reperfusion was more common in rt-PA–treated patients,then DFI should also be more common in rt-PA–treated patients. This paper describes the results of a test of that hypothesis, identification of clinical predictors of DFI,correlation of DFI with outcome,and a similar prespecified analysis of signifi-cant clinical deterioration(CD)in general.

Subjects and Methods

The methods and results of the NINDS rt-PA Stroke Trial have been described.6The trial was composed of2consecutive,prospective-randomized comparisons of rt-PA versus placebo given within3 hours of symptom onset.For the purpose of the present analysis,data from parts1and2were combined to increase statistical power and confidence in results.Patients were enrolled at43hospitals at8 clinical centers.

During the first24hours after rt-PA administration,patients’vital signs and neurological status were monitored at least every hour to promptly detect DFI or CD.If any such change was identified over the first7to10days after treatment,a full NIH Stroke Scale (NIHSS)and event form were completed.To address the hypotheses for this study,the following definitions of DFI and CD were used throughout the trial.

DFI was any decrease(improvement)of2or more points in the NIHSS followed by an increase(deterioration)of2or more points that,in the judgment of the investigator,was clinically significant or lasted?8hours.

CD was any4or more point increase in the NIHSS compared with baseline.Any NIHSS increase of2or more points mandated a repeat stat noncontrast CT head scan per protocol so that a repeat CT was performed when DFI or CD was detected.

Data were collected at the clinical centers by investigators blinded to treatment group on special case report forms specifi-cally designed to provide information concerning each DFI. These forms were sent to the coordinating center where they were reviewed by the study’s medical monitors(K.M.A.W.was as-sisted by S.F.),who were blinded to treatment assignment and who validated the DFI and determined the presumptive cause on the basis of all available clinical information.Possible presump-tive causes included reocclusion,edema,hemorrhage,or other(ie, hypoxia,hypotension,seizure,or new infarct).The cause was arbitrarily assigned to the“reocclusion”category if no other cause was evident(ie,“unknown”was not a category).These decisions were made in concert with the investigators at the clinical center, and in case of dispute,the final decision regarding classification or cause was made by the principal investigator at each clinical center.

In comparing the incidence of DFI in the2treatment groups,the denominator used was those patients in each group who improved2 points on the NIHSS during the time interval being evaluated.

We studied DFI or CD in relationship to stroke outcome including symptomatic or asymptomatic intracranial hemorrhages(ICH) within36hours,death within90days,or complete or nearly complete recovery measured from4neurological scales defined in the previous publication.6We began with testing treatment by DFI or CD interactions using the?level0.10,followed with testing the individual effect of DFI or CD at a level of0.05if the interaction was not detected.All analyses were conducted using logistic regression with calculation of the odds ratio(OR)and95%confidence limits. For worse outcomes,an OR and confidence limit?1indicated that patients with DFI or CD were more likely to have a worse outcome compared with patients who did not.For a favorable outcome,an OR and confidence limit?1indicated that patients who suffered DFI or CD were less likely to have a favorable outcome compared with patients who did not.The analyses were rerun by including those baseline variables associated with ICH or a3-month favorable outcome identified in previous studies of the NINDS Trial database.8,9

To detect baseline variables that might be associated with either DFI or CD,we included all variables tested in a previous analysis of baseline predictors of outcome and treatment response in the NINDS rt-PA Stroke Trial9as well as the following:serum glucose,white blood cell count(WBC),hematocrit(HCT),fibrinogen and fibrin degradation products(FDP),use of calcium channel blockers, aspirin,heparin,and antihypertensive therapy.

The following posttreatment variables obtained over the first24 hours after treatment were also tested:NIHSS,serum glucose,WBC, HCT,fibrinogen and FDP,maximum mean arterial blood pressure (MAP),a decrease of MAP by20mm Hg(mean of3consecutive reads compared with mean of first4reads),maximum decline of MAP between2consecutive reads,cardiac arrhythmia,syncope, angina,cardiac arrest,congestive heart failure,antihypertensive therapy,and calcium channel blocker therapy.

The statistical analysis of pretreatment and posttreatment variables and DFI or CD began with univariate tests at a critical value of0.2 to include candidates for the multivariable model,followed by multivariable analyses using a logistic model,adjusting by treatment for the posttreatment model and by centers if the incidence of DFI was unbalanced among the centers.Any individual variable with P?0.05or variable interactions with P?0.10were retained in the final model.This modeling process has been described in detail previously.9The quantified association,OR,and its confidence of each pretreatment or posttreatment variable(eg,treatment with rt-PA)with DFI or CD were reported.An OR?1.0of rt-PA versus placebo and confidence limits excluding1,for example,indicated that patients treated with rt-PA were less likely to have DFI or CD compared with patients treated with placebo.As another example,an OR of MAP drop over20mm Hg?1.0and confidence limits excluding1indicated that patients with such an MAP drop were less likely to experience DFI or CD compared with patients without this change in MAP.

Separate models were developed on the basis of the data collected at baseline and over the first24-hour posttreatment interval.The treatment variable was included in the posttreatment models to adjust for the effect of rt-PA on stroke outcome.DFI models were also adjusted for the clinical centers because of unbalanced incidence of DFI among centers.

Results

A total of81patients with DFI were identified:13%of all 624patients randomized.DFI occurred in44/312(14%)of rt-PA–treated patients,and37/312(12%)given placebo.DFI occurred within24hours in31/312(10%)of rt-PA–treated patients and29/312(9%)of placebo patients.None of these treatment group differences were significant(P?0.48and P?0.82,respectively).Because a difference between clinical

662Stroke

Clinical Deterioration Following Improvement in the NINDS rt-PA Stroke Trial

Figure 1.NIHSS scores over the ?rst 24hours in patients with DFI.A,rt-PA patients.B,placebo patients.

Grotta et al Deterioration Following Improvement 663

centers was found in the frequency of DFIs (range 6%to 25%,P ?0.05),the testing for differences in DFI between treatment groups,and subsequent analyses of DFI with baseline and posttreatment covariates,were adjusted by clinical centers.A graphic representation of NIHSS scores over the first 24hours for rt-PA and placebo DFI patients is depicted in Figure 1.

Fifty-nine of all DFIs were attributed to reocclusion (32rt-PA versus 27placebo,P ?0.49),3were attributed to cerebral hemorrhage (2treated with rt-PA and 1with place-bo),and 8to cerebral edema (5treated with rt-PA and 3with placebo).Eleven were caused by “other”conditions (5treated with rt-PA and 6with placebo).

A total of 98patients with CD within 24hours after treatment were identified,which was 16%of all patients randomized,excluding 1patient who died before 24hours.Forty-three patients with CD had been treated with rt-PA compared with 55who received placebo (P ?0.19).Figure 2illustrates the proportion of patients deteriorating 2or more points,3or more points,and up to 14or more points on the NIHSS in the first 24hours compared with baseline by treatment group with 95%confidence limits.No treatment difference was detected at any cutoff point (all P ?0.19,respectively).Another 13patients suffered CD by 7to 10

days,but the difference between treatment groups was still not significant.A graphic representation of NIHSS scores over the first 24hours in rt-PA and placebo CD patients is depicted in Figure 3.Of the 98patients with CD within 24hours,12(12.4%)were due to symptomatic hemorrhage.Because no treatment group differences were detected in the incidence of DFI or CD,the treatment variable was excluded from pretreatment models.Because rt-PA treat-ment might influence some posttreatment variables (eg,FDP),the treatment variable was retained in posttreatment models.

DFI or CD in Relationship to Hemorrhage Within 36Hours,Death,or 3-Month Favorable Outcomes

DFI was not associated with ICH or death at 90days.CD at 24hours and 7to 10days was highly associated with symptomatic ICH within 36hours (P ?0.001;OR 9.7;95%CI,3.9to 24.5)and death at 90days (P ?0.001;OR 4.4;95%CI,2.7to 7.1).Patients who experienced either DFI or CD were less likely to have a 3-month favorable outcome compared with patients who did not (OR 0.01to 0.92,P ?0.03).Among patients with CD within 24hours after treatment,the rt-PA–treated group had a less chance of a favorable outcome compared with the placebo-treated

Clinical Deterioration Following Improvement in the NINDS rt-PA Stroke Trial

group

Figure 2.Percentage of rt-PA and placebo patients with CD of 2to 14points on the NIHSS at 24hours,with 95%con?dence limits.

664Stroke

Clinical Deterioration Following Improvement in the NINDS rt-PA Stroke Trial

Figure 3.NIHSS scores over the ?rst 24hours in patients with CD.A,rt-PA patients.B,placebo patients.

Grotta et al Deterioration Following Improvement 665

(OR0.15;95%CI,0.03to0.94).On the other hand,for patients without deterioration at24hours,the rt-PA–treated group had a much greater chance of a3-month favorable outcome compared with the placebo-treated group(OR2.03; 95%CI,1.48to2.79).

DFI or CD Associated With Pretreatment or Posttreatment Variables

Baseline variables significantly associated with any DFI,DFI occurring within24hours,CD within24hours,and CD within7to10days are presented in Table1.A higher baseline NIHSS score was associated with DFI(OR1.05; 95%CI,1.01to1.08for all DFI;OR1.04,95%CI,1.00to 1.08for DFI within24hours).The mean(25to75th quartile) baseline NIHSS score of DFI patients was16.611–22versus 14.59–19in non-DFI patients.

No aspirin use before randomization(OR0.53;95%CI, 0.32to0.88)and early CT findings of edema or mass effect or dense middle cerebral artery sign(OR1.91,95%CI1.13 to3.23)were strongly associated with CD within24hours. Baseline NIHSS,glucose,and FDP?10mcg/mL were predictive of CD within7to10days.Mean(25to75th quartile)baseline NIHSS of CD patients was17.312–23versus 14.38–19in non-CD patients.

Posttreatment variables significantly associated with any DFI,DFI occurring within24hours,and CD within24hours and7to10days are presented in Table2.Both DFI occurring within24hours of treatment and CD were associated with a worse NIHSS at24hours.

Patients with a20mm Hg MAP drop from baseline during the first24hours after treatment were less likely to have DFI compared with patients who did not have such a MAP decline (OR0.34;95%CI,0.13to0.88).

The association of HCT with DFI was treatment dependent (P?0.04).When there was an abnormal HCT at24hours (35?HCT?55for males and40?HCT?60for females), patients treated with rt-PA were more likely to have DFI compared with rt-PA patients with normal HCT(OR1.98; 95%CI,0.97to4.00).

The association of WBC with DFI was also dependent on treatment P?0.01for interaction.Patients who were treated with rt-PA and with a WBC increment of1000cells were more likely to have DFI compared with the patients who were treated with rt-PA without such a WBC increment(OR1.14; 95%CI,1.04to1.24).A similar relationship with WBC was observed for early DFI occurring within24hours.CD by7to 10days was associated with increased glucose at24hours (OR1.07;95%CI,1.06to1.07).

Discussion

The main finding of this study,resulting from careful clinical observation of patients receiving rt-PA compared with pla-cebo,is that there was no difference detected between these treatment groups in the incidence of CD following initial improvement.This provides indirect but strong evidence that recanalization and increased reperfusion that has been asso-ciated with intravenous rt-PA therapy is not frequently followed by reocclusion as clinically defined in this study. This is true despite the fact that we had hypothesized DFI would occur more frequently in rt-PA–treated patients. Becker has documented reocclusion after intra-arterial lysis of basilar artery lesions,10but there are few other published

TABLE1.Baseline Variables Significantly Associated With DFI or CD With P<0.05for Individual and0.1for2-Way Interactions

Baseline Variable All DFI DFI Within

24Hours

CD Within

24Hours

CD Within

7–10Days

NIHSS,5-point increments 1.05(1.01,10.80) 1.05(1.00,1.08)??? 1.05(1.02,1.09) CT findings of early ischemia?????? 1.91(1.13,3.23)???Aspirin use at baseline??????0.53(0.32,0.88)???Serum glucose,10mg/dL increments????????? 1.01(1.00,1.01) FDP?10mcg/mL????????? 2.77(1.30,5.90)

TABLE2.Posttreatment Variables Significantly Associated With DFI or CD With P<0.05for Individual and0.1for2-way Interactions

Posttreatment Variables All DFI DFI Within

24Hours

CD Within

24Hours

CD Within

7–10Days

NIHSS,5-point increments??? 1.32(1.27,1.37)

P?.0032.54(2.44,2.64)

P?.0001

2.18(2.11,2.25)

P?.001

MAP drop of20mm Hg systolic0.34(0.13,0.88)

P?.03

?????????

Serum glucose,10mg/dL increments????????? 1.07(1.06,1.07)

P?.004 HCT X treatment P?.04*?????????

WBC X treatment P?.01*P?.01*??????

FDP?10mcg/mL X treatment?????????P?.03*

*P value for interaction.

666Stroke

reports of documented reocclusion of cerebral vessels after thrombolysis.

The main limitation of our study is that we relied on indirect clinical correlation rather than direct arteriographic observation and used arbitrary(but logical)NIHSS cutoffs to define improvement or deterioration.Perhaps limiting our analysis to patients with more dramatic improvement or deterioration or basing our results on arteriographic imaging would have revealed some treatment difference.Nonetheless, clinical fluctuation in acute stroke patients has been increas-ingly recognized and related to the state of perfusion in the acute stroke setting.11,12Therefore,we infer from our clinical data that it is unlikely that a substantial number of rt-PA cases have symptomatic reocclusion following physiologically meaningful reperfusion.

Because DFI was not increased in rt-PA–treated patients, the present study does not support the routine use of antico-agulation to prevent reocclusion after intravenous rt-PA for acute ischemic stroke.However,our results should be con-sidered“hypothesis generating.”Additional study of this question is certainly worthwhile,especially if done with arteriographic correlation to determine the exact incidence and timing of recanalization and reocclusion.Experience with thrombolysis for acute coronary occlusion has demonstrated that arterial recanalization can be augmented and reocclusion can be prevented by use of antiplatelet therapy,especially the GPIIbIIIa antagonists.13

Clinical fluctuation manifest as either DFI or CD was relatively common in this series,occurring in roughly15%of patients within the first24hours,which was consistent with previous clinical observations.14Early deterioration within6 hours of stroke onset was found in37.5%of patients enrolled in the European Cooperative Acute Stroke Study(ECASS).15 In our study,as in ECASS,both DFI and CD were closely related to the severity of the initial stroke because both were predicted by a worse baseline NIHSS score and CD was predicted by more prominent early CT changes. Surprisingly,DFI occurred less frequently in patients with a drop in blood pressure during the first24hours after treatment.It is well known that a reduction of blood pressure in the acute stroke setting may result in neurological wors-ening.However,in a previous analysis,we showed that treatment of blood pressure in the NINDS rt-PA Stroke Trial was not associated with adverse outcome in the placebo-treated patients.16Furthermore,in the present study,we did not find that DFI was associated with a higher incidence of antihypertensive treatment.Therefore,our data suggest that some mechanism other than reduced perfusion pressure was responsible for most of the DFI occurring in our patients. Other potentially treatable mechanisms may explain some cases of DFI.Animal models and human MRI studies17,18 have demonstrated progressive enlargement of the irrevers-ibly damaged ischemic core to incorporate surrounding pen-umbral regions over the first24hours after stroke.Other studies have shown that reperfusion may aggravate damage in regions of moderate ischemia.19Both these pathophysiolog-ical processes could cause CD and may be targeted by neuroprotective therapy.In our study,the use of calcium channel blockers before treatment,which have sometimes been neuroprotective in animal models,did not effect the incidence of DFI.

CD was more likely in patients not on aspirin at the time of their stroke.Aspirin improves outcome after stroke,20,21and some studies have suggested that strokes are less severe in patients taking aspirin.22Because our patients with CD had both more severe strokes and poorer outcomes,our data would support both these effects of aspirin.Because of its antithrombotic and anti-inflammatory properties,aspirin might reduce stroke severity and improve outcome by more than1mechanism.

CD was also associated with elevated blood glucose and increased FDP.Previous studies have correlated elevated blood glucose levels with poor outcome.23–26Previous studies have also shown a relationship of stroke severity with hemostatic factors including FDP.27It is unlikely that the relationship of CD to increased FDP in our study was due to fibrinolysis resulting from rt-PA administration because CD was,if anything,less frequent in rt-P–treated patients.It is not clear if elevated glucose and FDP are causally related to poor outcome and not just the result of a more severe stroke. However,the association of these variables to CD occurring over the next7to10days after the stroke might support therapeutic attempts to normalize these variables in acute stroke patients.

Finally,experimental neuronal cytotoxicity has been linked to rt-PA.28However,this explanation for the CD seen in our patients was not supported by our observation that rates of DFI and CD were not different between placebo and rt-PA–treated patients.

In conclusion,DFI and CD occur in at least15%of stroke patients during the first24hours,but neither DFI or CD are more frequent in patients treated with rt-PA.Our data suggest that mechanisms other than cerebral arterial reocclusion may explain the majority of these clinical fluctuations.These mechanisms deserve further study to avoid the poor clinical outcome associated with both DFI and CD.

Acknowledgements

This study was supported by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke(NO1-NS-02382,NO1-NS-02374,NO1-NS-02377,NO1-NS-02381,NO1-NS-02379,NO1-NS-02373,NO1-NS-02378,NO1-NS-02376,and NO1-NS-02380).

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