A new study appears to have pinpointed a better way to treat stroke patients than in the past. According to the results of the “Swift Prime” trial (Solitaire With the Intention For Thrombectomy as PRIMary Endovascular treatment), researchers believe that removing the stroke-triggering clot, in addition to applying the typical medication, is better than simply using the drug.

“These findings are a game-changer for how we should treat certain types of stroke,” Dr. Demetrius Lopes, surgical director of the comprehensive stroke center at Rush University Medical Center, said in the press release. “These outcomes are the difference between patients being able to care for themselves after stroke and being dependent.”

According to the study, less than 40 percent of patients who have experienced the most severe form of stroke are able to function normally and independently if they take the stroke drug alone. But the combination of both clot removal and stroke medication improves blood flow to the brain, as well as long-term outcomes, the researchers found.

The researchers examined 196 patients and divided them into two groups — one received the drug, IV tPA, and the other group received the combination of the drug and clot removal within 6 hours of stroke symptoms. Typically, doctors undertake a procedure called thrombectomy, in which a catheter is inserted through an incision in a person’s groin, then slid up towards the brain where the clot is grabbed and pulled out.

The patients who received both the drug and the thrombectomy saw reduced disabilities afterward. Those who received thrombectomy also experienced improved cerebral blood flow; 27 hours after treatment, 82.8 percent of them had mostly normal blood flow, while only 40.4 percent of patients who only received the drug had normal or better blood flow.

Interestingly, in past studies, researchers did not find that this combination therapy was any better than simple drug use. But the authors of this new study argue that “The Swift Prime trial used better technology, better imaging and quicker intervention, and we obtained a different result,” Lopes said in the press release. “Ethically, we can’t deny patients a treatment when we have such strong evidence it’s better for them,” he continued. As a result, hospitals where the study was carried out now have standard procedure to complete a thrombectomy on stroke patients in addition to the drug.