Encouraging news on the treatment of strokes caused by blood clots: there are now two first-line therapies to break up the clots and restore blood flow to the brain. In addition to using a clot-busting drug (called tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA), the FDA now says it's okay for doctors to use a device to reach into the blood vessel, grab the clot, and pull it out. Such clot-retrieving devices have been in use since 2012, but only for people who couldn't receive tPA therapy or didn't respond to it.
The device has now been approved for use on anyone with a clot large enough, as long it's within six hours of the onset of stroke symptoms and the tPA has been given first. "Using these as a combined approach will improve effectiveness of the treatment, and hopefully improve outcomes, such as less disability," says Dr. Natalia Rost, director of Acute Stroke Services at Harvard-affiliated Massachusetts General Hospital.
It's vital to seek treatment for a stroke as soon as symptoms begin. Symptoms might include a sudden, terrible headache; slurred speech; dizziness; numbness on one side of the body; difficulty walking; and confusion.