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For the first time in two decades, a new treatment has been shown to limit damage from a common type of stroke. Researchers in the Netherlands found that mechanically removing a clot in addition to using a standard clot-busting medicine lowered the risk that a stroke sufferer would be seriously disabled. Most strokes are caused by a clot in a blood vessel supplying the brain. The usual treatment is a clot-dissolving medicine called tPA, but it must be given within four and a half hours after symptoms start.
Several devices that can be pushed through blood vessels to mechanically remove the clot have come on the market since 2004. But three studies published last year in the New England Journal of Medicine did not find a benefit.
The new study tested more modern versions of these devices. The study involved 500 stroke patients. About 90 percent were given the clot-busting medicine, and half also were treated with a clot-removing device. They were treated within six hours of the start of their symptoms. Three months later, 33 percent of those given both treatments could live independently and take care of themselves versus 19 percent of those given tPA alone. The death rate was similar — about 19 percent at one month. Results were published online Wednesday by the New England Journal.