The Peter O’Donnell Jr. Brain Institute brings together transformative research and patient-centered care to improve the lives of patients today and those of generations to come.
Tissue Plasminogen Activator (tPA)
Peter O'Donnell Jr. Brain Institute
Stroke specialists at UT Southwestern Medical Center are experts at knowing when and how to use the clot-busting drug tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) to treat patients who are experiencing a stroke. Our stroke team is available around the clock to administer tPA to patients who need it.
Researchers at UT Southwestern helped refine the usage of tPA when it was being tested in the 1980s. Now, as the only Advanced Comprehensive Stroke Center in North Texas, we have perfected use of this drug, on its own or combined with endovascular rescue therapy, to remove stroke-causing blood clots.
If you or a loved one is experiencing signs of a stroke, it is a medical emergency. Call 911 and go to the nearest stroke center in an ambulance.
Expert Application of Lifesaving Therapy
Tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) is an intravenous medicine given for ischemic stroke – a stroke caused by a blood clot – that can dissolve the stroke-causing clot. Studies show that people who receive tPA within 3 hours – up to 4.5 hours in some patients – have better and more complete recoveries.
tPA is the only drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for acute ischemic stroke. Administering it quickly is critical because when brain cells don’t receive blood they die, affecting brain function. In some patients, tPA can restore blood flow to the brain within just a few minutes.
As the only Advanced Comprehensive Stroke Center in North Texas – and one of only two in the state – UT Southwestern is recognized for our exceptional level of expertise in rapidly diagnosing strokes and providing effective treatments based on the latest research and the highest standards of care.
Treatment With Tissue Plasminogen Activator (tPA)
Most hospitals can apply tPA to break down the blood clot that’s causing the ischemic stroke if the patient qualifies and is within the three-hour window since symptoms began.
The drug can be administered intravenously (IV tPA) or directly to the site of the blockage in the brain through a catheter inserted via the groin. This intra-arterial approach is especially beneficial for patients who have recently had surgery, are on blood thinners, or might have missed the critical three-hour window.
Patients who are given tPA at a local hospital might be transferred to a higher-level stroke center such as UT Southwestern for further treatment and rehabilitation.