Replacing a Heart Valve Without Missing a Beat

September 11, 2012

University Hospital is one of four sites in Texas selected for a study enabling more patients to receive a new aortic valve without open heart surgery

(SAN ANTONIO, TX – September 11, 2012) Earlier this year, the University Health System/UT Medicine San Antonio heart team became the first in South Texas to perform transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) and today, thanks to a new clinical research study, it’s the only team in San Antonio and one of just four in Texas to be able to offer this breakthrough procedure to even more people suffering from deadly aortic stenosis.

TAVR allows a new aortic valve to be placed within the diseased valve while the patient’s heart is still beating. It was initially approved for commercial use by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration in November 2011 for use only in those patients who are deemed not to be candidates to undergo traditional open heart valve replacement surgery.

Now, a clinical trial, called the Edwards Life Sciences PARTNER II Trial, under way at University Hospital and 38 other hospitals across the nation, broadens the patient eligibility requirements to enable more people with severe aortic stenosis, even those who are at moderate risk for aortic valve surgery, to benefit from TAVR. PARTNER II hospitals are also the only teams able to place a new smaller version of Edwards’ SAPIEN valve in patients who qualify. Patients enrolled in the clinical trial will be randomly assigned to receive TAVR or traditional open aortic valve replacement.

The TAVR procedure is performed in University Hospital’s advanced Cardiovascular Hybrid Suite by UT Medicine San Antonio’s certified TAVR team of interventional cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons. The team places the SAPIEN collapsible aortic heart valve into the body through a catheter that is inserted through a small incision and threaded up to the heart. Unlike traditional open-heart surgery, in most cases the valve can be placed without stopping the patient’s heart. The valve is expanded inside the patient’s existing valve, by inflating a balloon, and almost immediately goes to work.

Benefits of TAVR compared to open-heart surgery can include:

  • Small incision in the leg versus opening the patient’s sternum
  • Cardiopulmonary bypass is usually not required
  • Shorter hospital stay
  • Less blood loss

Roughly 1.5 million people in the U.S. suffer from aortic stenosis. Symptoms include chest pain or tightness, feeling faint or fainting with exertion, shortness of breath (especially with exertion), fatigue and heart palpitations.

According to the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association, surgical aortic valve replacement is the gold standard treatment for most adult patients with severe aortic stenosis and studies show that, without valve replacement, 50 percent of these patients will not survive more than about two years after the onset of symptoms.

Prospective candidates for TAVR and the PARTNER II Trial are carefully screened during a one-day comprehensive evaluation.

More information about TAVR is available by calling the UT Medicine Cardiology Clinic at the Medical Arts & Research Center at 210-450-4888. More information on Edwards Life Sciences PARTNER II Trial is available online.

UT Medicine San Antonio is the clinical practice of the School of Medicine at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio. With more than 700 doctors – all School of Medicine faculty – UT Medicine is the largest medical practice in Central and South Texas. Expertise is in more than 100 medical specialties and sub-specialties. Primary care doctors and specialists see patients in private practice at UT Medicine’s flagship clinical home, the Medical Arts & Research Center (MARC), located at 8300 Floyd Curl Drive, San Antonio 78229. Most major health plans are accepted, and UT Medicine physicians also practice at several local and regional hospitals. Call (210) 450-9000 to schedule an appointment, or visit for a list of clinics and phone numbers.

Owned by the taxpayers of Bexar County, University Health System is a nationally recognized academic medical center and network of outpatient health centers. Consistently recognized as one of the “Most Wired” healthcare organizations in the nation for its successful implementation of electronic medical records, it is also the first and only public health system in Texas to be designated as Magnet Hospital by the American Nurses Credentialing Center. University Hospital is ranked by U.S. News & World Report as the best hospital in San Antonio and is one of just 15 Level I trauma centers in Texas. Visit for more information.