Primary stroke center


Award-winning response to challenge of stroke

ETMC Tyler was the first hospital in East Texas to be designated a certified stroke center by The Joint Commission. The flagship hospital of our system is dedicated to providing high-quality stroke treatment and care.

Furthermore, the American Heart Association has recognized ETMC Tyler with multiple achievement awards for successfully using the “Get With the Guidelines” program, the premier quality-improvement program developed by the AHA and the American Stroke Association in the categories of coronary artery disease, heart failure or stroke. In one of our educational efforts we partnered with KLTV on the popular campaign “Know Stroke.”

Know the risk factors of stroke

ETMC teaches East Texans that some risk factors are unavoidable, such as being male, having diabetes, being age 55 or older, having a family history of stroke or being African-American. Other risk factors can be controlled:

  • Cigarette smoking (doubles the risk)
  • Being overweight
  • Having high cholesterol and/or high blood pressure
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Poor nutrition
  • Circulation problems
  • Excessive alcohol consumption

Know the signs of stroke

ETMC teaches East Texans the signs that someone is having a stroke, so 911 can be called for fast medical attention. Watch for these “sudden signs”:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • Sudden confusion or trouble speaking or understanding speech
  • Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes
  • Sudden trouble walking, dizziness or loss of balance or coordination
  • Sudden severe headache with no known cause

sidebar-hutchinson-cropped“East Texans face one of the highest stroke mortality rates in our state, and we are working to change that by providing community education that urges individuals to seek care quickly if they show symptoms of stroke, which increases their chance of survival and recovery.”

– Lisa Hutchison, RN, BSN, ETMC stroke coordinator


Stroke facts

  • Stroke is a medical emergency that occurs when the blood supply to the brain is interrupted or blocked, reducing the flow of oxygen and nutrients and causing brain cells to die.
  • Stroke is the leading cause of adult disability and the fourth-leading cause of death in the U.S.
  • There are two main kinds of ischemic stroke (caused by blockage of an artery to the brain): thrombotic and embolic. A thrombotic stroke occurs when diseased or damaged cerebral arteries become blocked by a blood clot formed within the brain. An embolic stroke is also caused by a clot in an artery, but the clot is formed somewhere other than the brain.
  • Transient ischemic attack (TIA), or ministroke, is a neurological event with stroke symptoms that lasts a brief time and causes no permanent brain damage. See a doctor immediately – one in three people who have a TIA eventually will have a stroke.

Amazing capabilities … but the clock is ticking

content-neuro-ambulanceToday ETMC Tyler is designated by The Joint Commission as a primary stroke center. That means our physicians and staff members regularly must demonstrate competency in stroke intervention. Monthly stroke team meetings involve every department in the hospital. Doctors employ state-of-the-art techniques to remove the blockage causing an acute ischemic stroke.

One important clot-dissolving technique is thrombolytic therapy, which is the use of medications, including tissue plasminogen activator (tPA). Although not appropriate for all patients (it depends on the patient’s medical history, age and gender), thrombolytic therapy can quickly restore some blood flow to the heart.

The Penumbra system has become the primary weapon in the arsenal of the interventional neuroradiologists at ETMC. Using X-ray guidance, a specialist threads a catheter from the patient’s groin to the artery in the brain being blocked by a blood clot. At the end of the catheter a special tool breaks up the clot and suctions it away.


Click here to view Penumbra stroke system video.

In other cases a stent retriever may be used to navigate blood vessels in the brain, find the clot and pull it out. In some patients, a tumor may be applying pressure to block blood flow, and surgeons can use catheters to interrupt the blood flow and starve the tumor.

Still it’s important to remember that treatment must be given quickly. After the onset of symptoms, doctors say, there are only a few hours of time available to give effective treatment resulting in a good recovery.

Toolkit to treat cardiac problems and prevent stroke

Across East Texas ETMC physicians use a variety of tools to prevent stroke and the whole gamut of cardiac problems, including heart attacks, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, atrial fibrillation and other conditions. Here are some of the methods:

  • Bioresorbable vascular scaffolds – essentially, stents that later dissolve within the body – are placed in blood vessels to treat patients with heart disease. ETMC Tyler was selected to perform clinical trials of this innovative technique.
  • Cryoballoon ablation therapy uses extreme cold to treat the irregular electric impulses that cause atrial fibrillation.
  • Replacement of heart valves with implanted valves, either mechanical or made of animal tissue, can be done to restore normal cardiac function.
  • MyHeart First screening program combines seven valuable tests in one cost-effective appointment at the Sigal Heart Center, 820 S. Baxter Ave. in Tyler. Call 903-595-5514 to schedule an appointment.
  • ETMC cardiovascular clinics, regularly scheduled in the ETMC region, bring the system’s top experts to East Texas.

content-neuro-tolleson-headshot“What I always tell my patients there is that it’s easier for me to drive here and see 30 of you than for 30 of you to drive to Tyler to see me.”

– Thaddeus Tolleson, MD, cardiologist, president and managing partner of Tyler CVC

Stroke recovery through rehabilitation

Stroke rehabilitation is offered through a coordinated program of education and exercise guided by physical therapists, occupational therapists and speech therapists. ETMC strives to bring services where patients live, reducing travel time and achieving better clinical results by making healthcare convenient.

Each patient receives a customized plan, drawing on these resources:

  • ETMC cardiopulmonary rehabilitation centers in Tyler, Athens, Cedar Creek Lake, Chandler, Henderson, Hideaway Lake, Jacksonville, Lake Palestine, Pittsburg, Quitman, Rusk and Sulphur Springs.
  • ETMC Olympic Centers located in Tyler, Canton, Cedar Creek Lake, Chandler, Hideaway Lake, Jacksonville, Lake Palestine, Mineola, Pittsburg,

Stroke prevention tip – especially for East Texans

Board-certified neurologist Allison Hennigan, MD, has devoted her career to helping victims of stroke and keeping others from joining their ranks. When telling her patients how important it is to stop smoking, she refers to cigarettes as stroke sticks instead of cancer sticks, and she appeals to the

content-neuro-hennigan headshotTo me, dying of cancer is scary,” Dr. Hennigan said. “But being in a situation where you’re not dead but you can’t talk and you can’t move and you have to have somebody else clean up your poop is more scary. That loss of independence can sometimes speak to people.”