Background: Intravenous (i.v.) thrombolysis with rt-PA within 3 h from symptom onset is the only approved treatment of pharmacological revascularization in acute ischemic stroke. However, little information exists on its use in elderly patients, in particular those aged >80 years, who at present are excluded from treatment. Methods: In a multicenter Italian study on i.v. thrombolysis, patients aged >80 years (n = 41) were compared with those aged ≤80 years (n = 207) regarding the percentage of symptomatic (nonfatal and fatal) intracerebral hemorrhage (SICH), favorable 3-month functional outcome (modified Rankin Scale score 0–2) and poor outcome (death or dependence, i.e. modified Rankin Scale score 3–5). Results: The percentage of SICH (nonfatal and fatal) was comparable between older (2.4%, 2.4%) and younger (2.4%, 2.4%) patient groups (p = 1.0). At 3 months, favorable outcome occurred in 44% and dependence in 22% of the older, and respectively in 58.5 and in 30.9% of the younger patients (p = 0.897). Patients aged >80 years had a higher mortality (34.1%) as compared to those aged ≤80 years (10.6%) (p < 0.001). Baseline National Institute of Health Stroke Scale score was the only statistically significant predictor of both mortality (OR = 1.26; 95% CI = 1.07–1.50) and poor outcome (OR = 1.39; 95% CI = 1.14–1.68) in the >80-year-old group. Conclusions: Acute ischemic stroke patients aged >80 years treated with i.v. rt-PA have a higher mortality than younger patients, but there are no differences for SICH nor for favorable outcome. Our data suggest that thrombolytic therapy should not be a priori denied for appropriately selected >80-year-old patients but randomized controlled clinical trials are necessary before definite recommendations can be given.

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