Hope for Patients with Inoperable Heart Valve Disease

April 06, 2012

Heart team at University Hospital is the first in South Texas to replace an aortic valve without open-heart surgery

Two South Texans are spending their Easter Weekend at University Hospital following a breakthrough heart valve replacement procedure that offers an option, and hope, for certain patients who have been told their disease was inoperable. It’s called transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR, and it received FDA approval last November as a treatment for adult patients with severe aortic valve stenosis who are too sick or frail to undergo traditional open-heart surgery. A team of UT Medicine San Antonio interventional cardiologists and cardiac surgeons is the first in South Texas to be approved to perform it. Following a rigorous and comprehensive training program, the team successfully completed two procedures over the past two days. A third TAVR procedure was cancelled due to a change in the patient’s health status. That patient successfully received a balloon aortic valvoplasty to repair and improve valve function.

TAVR involves the placement of a collapsible aortic heart valve into the body via a catheter that is inserted through a small incision and threaded up to the heart. The valve is expanded inside the patient’s existing valve, by inflating a balloon, and almost immediately goes to work. “We are thrilled to be partnering with the outstanding physicians of UT Medicine to offer this breakthrough option for patients in San Antonio and South Texas,” said Dr. Bryan Alsip, University Health System’s Chief Medical Officer. “The TAVR initiative at University Hospital demonstrates unprecedented collaboration between cardiologists and cardiac surgeons. It also involves critical contributions from cardiac anesthesiologists, non-invasive imaging physicians, neurologists, gerontologists, nurses and technicians – coming together as a single team to save lives.”

Candidates for TAVR include those who have severe aortic stenosis (AS) and who have been turned down for traditional open-heart surgical replacement. “Most of these patients are over the age of 75 with significant medical issues that make them too unhealthy for open-heart