Antiplatelet therapy: views from the experts.
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Antiplatelet therapy is recommended for stroke prevention in persons with a history of thromboembolic stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA) that is not of cardiac origin. Aspirin was the first antiplatelet agent to be used in this context and is still the most frequently prescribed preventive treatment for ischemic stroke. However, because the results of clinical studies with aspirin have been inconsistent, the dose of aspirin required for stroke prevention in persons with cerebrovascular disease has been a subject of debate among stroke neurologists. In the present discussion, low-dose aspirin is generally regarded by the experts as equivalent in effectiveness to high-dose aspirin, and its higher tolerability has the potential to significantly increase compliance with long-term therapy. Higher aspirin doses may have clinical utility in particular settings, but this requires further study. Despite the controversy, aspirin is now recognized as the treatment standard against which other antiplatelet agents are compared. Antiplatelet agents that may be more effective than aspirin have now been developed. Although each of these agents has been directly compared with aspirin in a large, randomized clinical trial, the lack of direct comparisons among these alternative antiplatelet therapies complicates decisions regarding long-term care of patients with cerebrovascular disease. An international panel of stroke neurologists reports that their selection of antiplatelet therapies for patients with prior history of TIA or stroke depends most heavily on drug efficacy and safety issues and is limited by availability (approval status of alternatives).
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