When a patient suffers a stroke, just a few minutes of interrupted blood flow to the brain can cause permanent damage. One minute alone can kill 2 million nerve cells and 14 billion synapses. That's why the longer it takes a patient to be treated, the slimmer the odds of a good outcome.

Hospital officials said despite evidence that shorter door-to-needed (DTN) times can improve outcomes, treatment is often delayed due to lags in assessment or administration of rt-PA , a clot-busting drug.

Scott & White—Round Rock, which sees about 100 stroke patients a year, recently joined a program that helps hospitals reduce the time it takes to administer rt-PA to patients after a stroke.

The goal is to administer the drug to stroke patients within 60 minutes or less.

"When a stroke occurs, there is very little time to treat and save the brain. Across the United States, there has been a push to treating stroke patients as soon as possible and within 60 minutes of showing up to the emergency department," said Dr. Jeremiah Lanford, a neurologist at Scott & White Healthcare.

Scott & White officials said about 25 percent to 30 percent of hospitals currently meet the national standard of administering rt-PA within 60 minutes. In order to receive a "Target Stroke Honor Roll" designation from the American Stroke Association, the drug must be administered in 50 percent or more of critical stroke cases.

According to the American Stroke Association, with every 10-minute delay in the start of drug administration within the one- to three-hour treatment window, there was one in 100 patients with improved disability outcomes.

Scott & White — Round Rock is one of 10 Texas hospitals and the only hospital in Central Texas to be awarded the status.

"At Scott & White, we strike to provide the absolute best care we can to every patient with a stroke. This award is a nice recognition for the improvement we have made in treating patients with a stroke," Lanford said.

Other Texas hospitals to receive the designation include:

  • Baptist Health System in San Antonio
  • Cypress Fairbanks Medical Center in Houston
  • Good Shepherd Medical Center in Longview
  • Lake Pointe Medical Center in Rowlett
  • Providence Memorial Hospital in El Paso
  • St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital in Houston
  • United Regional Healthcare System in Wichita Falls
  • Valley Baptist Medical Center – Brownsville in Brownsville
  • Wadley Regional Medical Center in Texarkana

Scott & White — Round Rock boasts a Joint Commission Primary Stroke Center designation and was the first in Williamson County to receive it in 2009.

CEO Ernie Bovio said the hospital's stroke response team is made up of physicians, nurses and therapists.

Hospital officials said the community can also help improve stroke care in the community with public awareness and responsiveness at first signs of stroke.

Warning signs include sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body; sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding; sudden trouble seeing in one or both eye, sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination; or sudden and severe headache with no known cause.

Doctors advise people call 911 at the first sign of stroke.