UCHealth is Treating Stroke Patients Faster and More Efficiently with New Medication 

UCHealth Garth Englund Blood Center. Photo courtesy of UCHealth.

Tenecteplase (TNK) is faster and easier to administer to patients experiencing a medical emergency. 

UCHealth hospitals across Colorado have begun treating patients experiencing acute ischemic stroke with a faster and simpler medication – both key during a stroke, when every minute counts.

The clot-busting medication Tenecteplase (TNK) is now being used in place of Alteplase (tPA), which had been the standard for nearly three decades in treating ischemic strokes, a medical emergency in which blood supply to a portion of the brain is blocked.  Although both medications break up clots and restore blood flow in the brain, TNK is considerably easier to administer.

“TNK is given as a single, immediate IV push that can be administered in just five seconds,” said Dr. Sharon Poisson, a neurohospitalist and medical co-director of the Comprehensive Stroke Program at UCHealth University of Colorado Hospital on the Anschutz Medical Campus. “In stroke care, time is of the essence. The faster we can administer a clot-busting drug to a patient, the better the chances are for a positive outcome.” UCHealth is also using the medication in its Mobile Stroke Treatment Unit.

Safety also was an important consideration in making the switch to TNK, said Poisson. “With tPA, there is a greater chance of error because of the complexity of how the drug must be administered. tPA requires an initial injection followed by an hour-long continuous infusion – requiring multiple steps, which leads to more opportunities for delays and errors.”

Poisson said UCHealth, like other hospital systems across the country, studied several years of data before switching to TNK, a genetically modified version of tPA that allows it to be longer-acting. “Several large clinical trials show similar findings that TNK is as equally effective as tPA. In addition, studies have shown it may be superior to tPA for large-vessel occlusions.”

According to the American Stroke Association, strokes are the fifth leading cause of death in the United States. They are also a major cause of long-term disability, with deficits ranging from the inability to recognize people to immobility and language impairment.

“Treatments like TNK are very effective in an ischemic stroke if administered soon after symptoms begin,” Dr. Janice Miller, a neurologist and the stroke medical director for UCHealth Memorial Hospital Central, also a Comprehensive Stroke Center.  “That’s why it’s so important to call 911 immediately at the first sign of a stroke. Medications to treat ischemic strokes must be given within 4.5 hours of the onset of symptoms. Unfortunately, too many patients wait too long to get help and are thus not eligible for such lifesaving and disability-preventing medications.”

It is important to know the signs of stroke, as symptoms are often sudden. Use the letters in B.E. F.A.S.T. to spot a stroke:

  • B = Balance/difficulty standing or walking
  • E = Sudden changes in eyesight, such as loss of vision or double vision
  • F = Facial Drooping
  • A = Arm Weakness
  • S = Speech Difficulty
  • T = Time to call 911

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