Fast clot removal key to stroke recovery, study says

Getting prompt treatment after stroke is critical for the best recovery, according to research published online in the September edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Dr. Jeffrey Saver, director of the UCLA Stroke Unit, and his co-authors reviewed the outcomes of over 1,200 patients diagnosed with acute ischemic stroke who participated in five large randomized clinical trials. Some patients received standard medical therapy, while the others received standard therapy, plus treatment with a thrombectomy device.

Study authors found that the sooner the patients received treatment from the thrombectomy device— which pulls clots out of the affected artery and helps restore blood flow to the brain— the better the patient’s overall recovery.

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Stroke is the second leading cause of death worldwide and the fifth leading cause of death in the United States— each year more than 750,000 Americans experience a stroke.

“It’s critically important for patients to recognize the warning signs of stroke, get to the hospital as soon as possible, and for doctors, nurses and health systems to then rapidly treat patients when they arrive,” Saver said.

In their study, researchers noted therapy was beneficial for patients up to seven hours, 20 minutes after onset.

“If you get that artery open at three hours, then 65 percent of patients will be able to live independently three months later,” Saver said. “If it takes eight hours to get it open, then only 45 percent will be able to live independently. It makes a major difference in outcome.”

Experts say it’s crucial for the public to be aware of the signs of stroke. Use the acronym FAST: If you see Facial drooping, Arm weakness and Speech difficulty, it’s Time to call 911.

“Often, the patient can’t make the call themselves because the stroke is affecting their speaking or their ability to recognize they are having a stroke,” Saver said. “It’s very important for family, friends, witnesses— if you see someone having stroke symptoms, call 911. Every minute matters.”