HARLINGEN / BROWNSVILLE — Both Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen and Valley Baptist Medical Center-Brownsville have received the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Get With The Guidelines®-Stroke Gold Plus Achievement Award with Target: StrokeSM Honor Roll Elite Plus.

The award recognizes the commitment of both hospitals to providing the most appropriate stroke treatment according to nationally recognized, research-based guidelines based on the latest scientific evidence.

Hospitals must achieve 85 percent or higher adherence to all Get With The Guidelines-Stroke achievement indicators for two or more consecutive 12-month periods and achieve 75 percent or higher compliance with five of eight Get With The Guidelines-Stroke Quality measures to receive the Gold Plus Quality Achievement Award.

To qualify for the Target: Stroke Honor Roll Elite Plus, hospitals must meet quality measures developed to reduce the time between the patient’s arrival at the hospital and treatment with the clot-buster tissue plasminogen activator, or tPA, the only drug approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat ischemic stroke. If given intravenously in the first three hours after the start of stroke symptoms, tPA has been shown to significantly reduce the effects of stroke and lessen the chance of permanent disability.

Valley Baptist-Harlingen and -Brownsville earned the award by meeting specific quality achievement measures for the diagnosis and treatment of stroke patients at a set level for a designated period.

These quality measures are designed to help hospital teams follow the most up-to-date, evidence-based guidelines with the goal of speeding recovery and reducing death and disability for stroke patients.

“A stroke patient loses 1.9 million neurons each minute stroke treatment is delayed. This recognition further demonstrates our commitment to delivering advanced stroke treatments to patients quickly and safely,” said Dr. Wondwossen Tekle, Director of Stroke and Neurocritical Care for Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen.

Dr. Luis Gaitan, Medical Director of the Stroke Program at Valley Baptist Medical Center-Brownsville, said receiving the American Heart Association’s Get With The Guidelines-Stroke demonstrates the level of expertise offered by the stroke team at Valley Baptist.

“Valley Baptist-Brownsville continues to strive for excellence in the acute treatment of stroke patients,” he said. “The recognition from the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Get With The Guidelines-Stroke further reinforces our team’s hard work.”

At Valley Baptist Medical Center in Harlingen and Brownsville, which are both certified as Advanced Primary Stroke Centers by The Joint Commission, a “clot-busting” medication called tPA is used when medically indicated to reverse strokes – but in most cases the medication must be given within three hours from the start of symptoms of a possible stroke.

Valley Baptist-Harlingen, which also remains the first and only Certified Comprehensive Stroke Center in the Valley and south of San Antonio, also offers endovascular stroke procedures, during which blood clots are extracted by specially-trained “endovascular” neurologists, using tiny mechanical devices which are inserted into the blood vessels through thin catheters or tubes. These procedures can increase the time window for stroke treatment – but it is still critical for residents to call 911 immediately.

“The American Heart Association and American Stroke Association recognize Valley Baptist Medical Center-Harlingen and -Brownsville for their commitment to stroke care,” said Paul Heidenreich, M.D., M.S., national chairman of the Get With The Guidelines Steering Committee and Professor of Medicine at Stanford University. “Research has shown there are benefits to patients who are treated at hospitals that have adopted the Get With The Guidelines program.”

Get With The Guidelines®-S puts the expertise of the American Heart Association and American Stroke Association to work for hospitals nationwide, helping hospital care teams ensure the care provided to patients is aligned with the latest research-based guidelines. Developed with the goal to save lives and improve recovery time, Get With The Guidelines®-S has impacted more than 3 million patients since 2003.

In addition to providing nationally-recognized stroke care, Valley Baptist Health System works to raise funding for stroke treatment and education in the Rio Grande Valley through its annual Red Ball gala. This year’s Red Ball, which was held on Saturday, May 6th, raised more than $78,000 in support of the American Heart Association to fight stroke in the Valley. Next year’s Red Ball is scheduled for Saturday, May 5th at the Venezzia in Brownsville.