Citizens recognized for stroke care

Dr. Daniel Cano, the chief medical officer at Citizens Medical Center, addresses the hospital's board members Wednesday. The hospital was recognized by the American Heart Association for its stroke care.

Most stroke patients at Citizens Medical Center were able to receive life-saving medication within 45 minutes after getting to the hospital, according to 2018 data.

The hospital was recognized by the American Heart Association for its ability to get drugs to stroke patients so quickly in 2018. On average, patients suffering stroke symptoms received the drugs within 45 minutes last year, said Dr. Daniel Cano, the hospital’s chief medical officer.

So far in 2019, patients have received clot-busting medication within 36 minutes on average, Cano said.

The American Heart Association granted the hospital with the highest recognition possible for its speedy stroke care, Cano told Citizens board members Wednesday.

A stroke occurs when either a blood clot or a ruptured blood vessel disrupts the flow of blood to the brain. Strokes that are caused by clots, known as ischemic strokes, make up most of the strokes in the U.S., and can only be treated using a tissue plasminogen activator drug, according to the American Heart Association. The sooner a patient gets tPA, the better the chances for survival and recovery.

“Every second that goes by is more neurons that are lost forever,” Cano said. “Once neurons are lost, they’re lost.”

The American Heart Association launched its Get with the Guidelines program to help hospitals throughout the U.S. improve care for patients suffering strokes or cardiac attacks. A particular focus of the program is helping healthcare providers get care to patients within 60 minutes. At Citizens, patients must receive a CT scan, get their blood drawn and tested, and conference with a board-certified neurologist in Houston before getting TPA drug, Cano said.

That timeline, called “door-to-needle” time frame, is considered a critical window within which to help patients before risk of severe brain damage or death increases.

At Wednesday’s board meeting, Citizens recognized the physicians and partners who have helped it lower its door-to-needle time, including Victoria Fire Department’s Emergency Medical Services. Dr. John McNeill, the emergency medical director at Citizens, said by working more closely with the Victoria EMS, the hospital was able to reduce its door-to-needle time by six minutes. Victoria’s medics will alert the hospital when a stroke patient is on their way, and will also draw blood in the ambulance, saving time once the patient is at Citizens.

The hospital is hoping to get its door-to-needle time even lower, to less than 30 minutes in 2020.

Citizens was recognized by the heart association’s honor roll elite plus recognition in its Target: Stroke program.

Strokes are one of the most frequent causes of death and longterm disability in the U.S., and Texas’ stroke death rate is higher than the national average, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Ciara McCarthy covers local government for the Victoria Advocate as a Report for America corps member. You can reach her at or at 580-6597 or on Twitter at @mccarthy_ciara.

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Health Reporter

Ciara McCarthy covers local government for the Advocate as a Report for America corps member. You can contact her by emailing

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