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Though it may reduce impact of a stroke, blood clot removal surgery is not without risks

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3 Star

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New Findings Could Save Lives of More Stroke Patients

Our Review Summary

This story discusses research findings that could improve the treatment options available to stroke patients. By extending the eligibility cutoff for blood clot removal from 6 to 16 hours post-stroke, researchers found that more lives could be saved and disability among stroke patients reduced.

The story included some helpful details, such as how the study’s findings will likely change current stroke guidelines. But other core details were missing, such as the costs and harms of treatment. Also, no independent sources were tapped, just a news release.

We also reviewed a related news release on a different study that had a similar intervention. Like this news story, that article skimped on cost, harms and study details.

 

Why This Matters

A study such as this is particularly newsworthy, since strokes are among the leading causes of death and disability in the U.S. Providing a thorough look at the study’s findings and limitations–as well as the costs and harms of the treatment used–helps readers make sense of the news.

Criteria

Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

There’s no mention of how much the special imaging and surgical procedure will cost patients.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Satisfactory

The article describes the impact of blood clot removal on “functional independence” and death rates for stroke patients. Readers learn that 45 percent of patients who had blood clots removed became functionally independent compared to 17 percent who did not have their blood clots removed. Additionally, the death rate was 12 percentage points lower in the group who had their blood clots removed compared to patients who didn’t have them removed.

However, since the story’s headline says that extending the time window for blood clot surgery will “save lives,” it would have been more informative if the article reported on the additional lives saved by expanding the treatment window to 16 hours, by including the sizes of the treatment and control group. All we know is that there were 182 patients involved in the study.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

Aside from acknowledging that not all stroke patients who fall in the extended time frame are eligible for this procedure, no harms were discussed. What are the harms of standard medical therapy for stroke, therapy plus thrombectomy surgery, and the special brain imaging?

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?

Not Satisfactory

The story provides some basic details about the study, but isn’t specific enough.

We’re not told:

  • Why only about half the patients who were screened were able to receive blood clot removal surgery
  • What the average time was for having surgery after onset of symptoms
  • What type of “special imaging” was used to determine eligibility
  • What the control group received as a treatment
  • What the study’s limitations were

Does the story commit disease-mongering?

Satisfactory

There is no disease mongering in this story.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?

Not Satisfactory

The story includes a statement from an NIH doctor, taken from a news release.  No independent sources were quoted.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?

Not Satisfactory

The story didn’t make it clear enough that patients in the non-surgery group still received standard medical treatment for stroke. What does that consist of, and how effective is it? We’re not told.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?

Satisfactory

While it’s not clear when the new 16-hour guideline will take effect, the article makes it clear that this procedure is currently available.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?

Satisfactory

The novelty of this research is the extended time frame for treatment rather than the treatment itself. The story does a good job of making this distinction clear.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?

Satisfactory

The story does not appear to rely on a news release.

Total Score: 5 of 10 Satisfactory

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