Illustration of clot-busting treatment in brain

In addition to improving survival and reducing disability, mechanically removing the clot causing an ischemic stroke leads to better cognitive functioning, according to research presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2016.

Ninety days after an ischemic stroke in 206 people who previously had no cognitive problems, researchers administered two tests of executive functioning to the survivors.

On a test measuring visual attention and the speed of processing information, 61 survivors who had thrombectomy and 59 survivors given medication only were able to complete the test in a timely manner. Patients treated with thrombectomy completed the test more quickly although differences were not statistically significant.

However, on a more challenging measure of executive functioning (the ability to organize and prioritize thoughts and information), 39 in the thrombectomy group (64 percent of those that completed the first test) and 26 in the medication-only group (44 percent of those that completed the first test) were able to complete the test. Patients who received medical treatment alone needed significantly more time to complete the second test.

This indicates that executive functioning is better preserved and faster when patients undergo thrombectomy following an ischemic stroke, researchers said.

Editor’s Note: This story was written when the time limit on mechanical clot removal was six hours. New guidelines released in January 2018 allow some carefully selected patients to receive mechanical thrombectomy up to 24 hours after stroke symptoms begin.