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Medical Tests & Procedures

When a stroke strikes

Under new guidelines, more people may qualify for a clot-retrieving procedure that promises better outcomes — once it becomes more widely available.

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 Image: © Luis Alvarez/Getty Images

About every 40 seconds, someone in the United States has a stroke. These potentially devastating events are nearly always caused by a blood clot blocking an artery supplying the brain (known as an ischemic stroke). Now, new guidelines have expanded the treatment options for removing or dissolving these clots — a change that experts say will save lives and prevent or limit brain damage from strokes.

"The future of stroke treatment is here. The question is, are we ready?" says Dr. Natalia Rost, associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and director of acute stroke services at Massachusetts General Hospital. Currently, there's a shortage of specialists trained to perform the delicate procedure used to retrieve a clot during a stroke. The professional societies responsible for the training are working to catch up with the demand, she explains.

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