Graphic of a brain scanAt less cost, stroke survivors live longer and better if clot removal is added to clot-busting medication to treat ischemic strokes, according to research presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2016.

Researchers examined recovery three months after 70 patients experienced a moderate to severe ischemic stroke, involving a clot blocking a large vessel. All had salvageable brain tissue on imaging and received the clot-busting drugs within 4.5 hours of stroke onset. In addition, half had their clots physically removed (thrombectomy). Researchers calculated disability level, quality of life scores, procedure and inpatient care costs.

Among their findings:

  • Patients undergoing thrombectomy spent less time in the hospital with a median time of five days compared to  eight days.
  • Thrombectomy patients often needed no rehabilitation, while drug therapy patients spent a median of 27 days in rehabilitation.
  • Even after spending an extra $11,507 to transport patients and perform thrombectomy, inpatient care in the first three months following a stroke costed $2,417 less for patients who had their clots removed in addition to receiving tissue plasminogen activator (tPA).
  • Based on assessments three months after stroke, life expectancy was greater in the thrombectomy group– with a median time of 12.6 years — than in those receiving tPA alone with a median time of 7.4 years.
  • Over a lifetime thrombectomy recipients were predicted to have more years with a higher quality of life (median 7.5) than those who received tPA alone (4 years).
  • Thrombectomy recipients were predicted to spend fewer years of their lives disabled (median 5.5) than those who received tPA alone (median 8.9).