OBJECTIVE: Thrombolysis has been demonstrated to improve revascularization and outcome in patients with acute ischemic stroke. Many centers now apply thrombolytic therapy locally via intra-arterial infusion. One therapeutic benefit is the ability to cross soft clots with a guidewire and to perform mechanical thrombolysis. In some instances, reopened arteries reocclude as a result of either thrombosis or vasospasm. We report the use of balloon angioplasty during thrombolysis for acute stroke. METHODS: From June 1995 through June 1999, 49 patients underwent intra-arterial therapy for acute stroke. In this group, nine patients (seven men and two women) were treated with balloon angioplasty after inadequate recanalization with thrombolytic infusion. The mean age of these patients was 67.9 years. Nine matched control patients who underwent thrombolysis alone without angioplasty were chosen for comparison. RESULTS: In the group of nine patients who had angioplasty, the mean National Institutes of Health Stroke Scale score at presentation was 21.8 ± 5.4. Four patients had residual distal occlusion after angioplasty, and one patient had a hemorrhagic conversion. Of the five patients in which recanalization was successful, none had reocclusion of the balloon-dilated vessel. The mean score at 30 days for the five survivors was 12.6 ± 14.9, for an improvement of 7.0 ± 14.2. Among the nine control patients, the mean score at presentation was 20.3 ± 5.2; the mean score at 30 days for the five survivors was 19.4 ± 7.7, for an improvement of 4.2 ± 7.8. CONCLUSION: In our experience, balloon angioplasty is a safe, effective adjuvant therapy in patients who are resistant to intra-arterial thrombolysis. The use of balloon angioplasty may prevent reocclusion in a stenotic artery and permit distal infusion of thrombolytic agents.