This article presents a narrative review of the non-medical, medical and endovascular aspects of the management of acute ischaemic stroke in the posterior circulation, a potentially devastating condition with high mortality and substantial disability in many of those who survive.
Optimal management requires a combination of supportive measures and specific interventions and is best delivered within a high-dependency or intensive care environment. Non-medical measures include management of physiological parameters, respiratory support where necessary and prompt treatment of complications such as the development of hydrocephalus. Deterioration in conscious state and progression of symptoms may occur some time after initial presentation and after admission to hospital; when such progression is detected, very rapid therapeutic reperfusion may be feasible. Reperfusion strategies include intravenous and intra-arterial thrombolysis (IAT) and mechanical methods to aid reperfusion, including the use of mechanical clot disruption, clot retrieval or stenting devices.
The optimal reperfusion strategy, including considerations of whether to use intravenous or intra-arterial thrombolytic approaches, the use of bridging intravenous treatment prior to intra-arterial treatment, and the use of pharmacological or mechanical adjuncts to IAT is not known. However, it seems likely that the important determinant of therapeutic efficacy is the speed and safety with which reperfusion can be achieved. It may also be that the time available to achieve reperfusion is longer than in the anterior circulation.
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No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this manuscript. The author was a medical co-ordinator of the AUST study of intra-arterial thrombolysis in posterior circulation stroke, and has received support from Boehringer Ingelheim for conference attendance.
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