The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association recently issued new treatment guidelines that make many more patients eligible for two important stroke treatments.

The guidelines – a list of recommendations for clinicians nationwide – is for the most common type of stroke, called ischemic stroke. It’s caused by a blood clot that reduces or stops blood flow to a portion of the brain.

Under the guideline, the time period to mechanically remove clots could expand to up to 24 hours after symptoms begin for some patients. Even so, patients need to remember that anyone who experiences stroke symptoms should call 911 immediately. Not all strokes progress at the same rate and only some patients will benefit from the newly extended time period.

The technical name for the procedure is mechanical thrombectomy.

In addition, the guidelines suggest more people should be considered eligible for a clot-dissolving IV medication called alteplase. Alteplase was approved to treat ischemic stroke in 1996 and remains the only medication approved by the Food and Drug Administration to dissolve clots. Alteplase has been proven to decrease disability when given promptly.

“This is going to make a huge, huge difference in stroke care,” said Dr. William J. Powers, guidelines writing group chair and chair of neurology at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine in Chapel Hill.

Stroke is the second-leading cause of death in the world and a leading cause of adult disability.

If you have questions or comments about this story, please email