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What Is Activase®?

Activase may help treat symptoms of a heart attack.
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  • Written By: Emma Lloyd
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 18 June 2014
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    Conjecture Corporation
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Activase® is a prescription medication used to treat acute myocardial infarction and acute ischemic stroke. These conditions are more commonly known as heart attack and stroke, respectively. Activase®, also known as Alteplase, is a type of medication called a tissue plasminogen activator, and it works by breaking down blood clots.

Heart attack, stroke and pulmonary embolism are caused by the formation of blood clots that block the flow of blood to the heart, brain or lungs. The symptoms experienced in each case are caused by the reduced flow of blood and oxygen to the location. A severe blockage that does not receive prompt treatment can be fatal.

A tissue plasminogen activator is a type of protein that plays an important role in breaking down blood clots. This protein is associated with endothelial cells that line the walls of blood vessels. It does not itself break down blood clots; instead its role is in converting the enzyme precursor called plasminogen to its active form. The active form of plasminogen is an enzyme called plasmin, and it is this enzyme that is responsible for breaking down blood clots. Activase® is a recombinant tissue plasminogen activator produced in a laboratory.

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Following a heart attack, stroke or pulmonary embolism, Activase® is administered to patients who fit the criteria for treatment. These criteria are very stringent because of the risks involved with the use of this medication. One of the most important criteria is that patients must be treated with the drug within no more than three to six hours after suffering a heart attack, stroke or pulmonary embolism. After this time, the drug cannot be administered. This is because a patient must receive treatment as soon as possible for the benefits of the medication to outweigh the risks.

There are several other criteria that patients must meet. This medication can not be used by anyone with active internal hemorrhagic bleeding, because tissue plasminogen activator medications work by altering the blood clotting system. This medication also cannot be used in any case where the patient has a history of bleeding disorder, has severe high blood pressure, has recently sustained an injury to the brain or spinal cord or has recently undergone spinal or brain surgery. In addition, anyone taking a blood thinner such as warfarin cannot also take Activase®.

This medication can cause severe side effects that require immediate medical attention. Most of these potential side effects relate to the increased risk of uncontrolled bleeding that occurs when taking a tissue plasminogen activator. Possible side effects include bloody stools or vomit, coughing up blood, rectal bleeding, vision disturbances, color change in fingers or toes, limb numbness, weakness on one side of the body, changes in skin color, severe bleeding from an injury site, changes in heart rhythm, severe chest pain, speech problems, sudden pain in an arm or leg and dizziness or fainting.

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