By Dr. Brian McDonough, Medical Editor

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – We often talk about stroke and the importance of getting to the hospital quickly after symptoms appear. Each year, over half a million people experience a stroke for the first time.

In many cases a stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures or is blocked by a clot. Today many things can be done at the hospital to help.

In some centers a procedure called endovascular surgery is available. In this procedure a vascular surgeon can remove the clot by threading a catheter through a major artery and sending it to the site in the brain where the blood clot is located.

In addition, some patients who get to the hospital quickly – within 3 hours of showing symptoms – can also receive the clot-busting drug TPA. This helps dissolve the clot and quickly restores blood flow to the brain, which increases the chance of a full recovery.

The bottom line is that it pays to get to the hospital.