New Studies Tout Benefits of Minimally Invasive Heart Procedure. Meet the Patients Who Have Benefited.

By Meredith Whittemore

Tens of thousands of patients needing a heart valve replacement may soon be able to avoid open heart surgery. Two recently published studies show a minimally invasive procedure called transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), which was previously reserved for patients so sick they may not survive open heart surgery, is also beneficial for younger, healthier patients.

“We have been pioneering the TAVR procedure here in Houston for a while now and have strongly believed many more patients could benefit from this minimally invasive approach,” said Richard Smalling, MD, an interventional cardiologist affiliated with Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center. “These studies support that belief and may change the way aortic valve replacement surgery is addressed entirely.”

Patients often need valve replacements due to aortic stenosis and aortic regurgitation. Both can be caused by aging or an underlying congenital issue. Traditionally, valve replacements were conducted with open heart surgery, but during a TAVR procedure, physicians access the heart through a vein in the groin. Using catheters, a replacement aortic valve is inserted and expands to push the diseased valve aside. This increases the blood flow through the heart, decreasing the risk for heart attack and stroke.

Dr. Smalling, who is also the James D. Woods Distinguished Chair in Cardiovascular Medicine and director of interventional cardiovascular medicine at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, said that once TAVR receives FDA approval for this expanded patient group, it will likely become the gold standard for aortic valve replacement in the future.

Learn more about the benefits of the TAVR procedure and how the procedure has already helped many in Houston:

TAVR procedure saves ‘Great Day Houston’ host’s mother from congestive heart failure

After being told she had congestive heart failure and aortic stenosis, with only months to live, Esther Duncan underwent the TAVR procedure. ‘Great Day Houston’ Host Deborah Duncan discusses how it improved her mother’s life and gave her many more years ahead. Watch.

A Mother’s Day story of heroism and daring

Despite developing a life-threatening valve disease that required surgery, Cecilia Figueroa wasn’t willing to terminate her pregnancy in order to have the open heart surgery suggested by her cardiologist. Instead, she sought out a physician who offered an option that could potentially keep both her and her baby alive. Read More.

Virgie Davis’s 90th Birthday that Almost Wasn’t

Family members at first disregarded Virgie Davis’s breathlessness as a natural consequence of getting older, but when the 89-year-old fainted at home, they knew something was wrong. After physicians discovered multiple blockages in her heart, Davis underwent a TAVR procedure, which helped her see her 90th birthday. Read more.

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