December 12, 2019

Conroe, TX - HCA Houston Healthcare Conroe is breaking new ground in cardiac care becoming one of the first hospitals in Montgomery County to provide an alternative to complex open-heart surgery.

Rather than cutting open the chest to replace a narrowed aortic valve, surgeons at HCA Houston Healthcare Conroe are using a minimally invasive Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement, or TAVR, procedure, to achieve the same result.

TAVR replaces damaged aortic valves through a catheter instead of exposing the heart in surgery. TAVR candidates typically suffer from aortic stenosis, a common but serious valve problem in which the aortic valve opening narrows, dangerously restricting blood flow and affecting pressure in the heart.

"Historically, this procedure has been offered only in the Texas Medical Center and in southwest Houston - to be one of the first facilities to bring it to Montgomery County is very significant," says Dr. Connie Hutton, cardiovascular surgeon at HCA Houston Healthcare Conroe. Dr. Hutton is involved in every TAVR procedure performed at the facility.

Hutton and a team of cardiologists successfully completed several TAVR procedures the first day the open-heart surgery alternative was available to patients at HCA Houston Healthcare Conroe this November.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved TAVR in 2012 for patients considered at high risk for open-heart surgery. In 2016, the FDA approved the procedure for patients at intermediate risk. Earlier this year, the FDA further expanded its approval to include low-risk patients.

"This dramatically increases the number of patients who qualify for TAVR," according to Dr. Rajesh Ramineni, a cardiologist on staff at HCA Houston Healthcare Conroe who performs the TAVR procedure.

"One of the most significant benefits of the TAVR procedure is that it doesn't utilize a bypass machine, which takes over the function of the heart and lungs during surgery and comes with inherent risks," further explains cardiologist Dr. Osman Jaffer. "Since surgeons go through the groin instead of the chest, recovery time from TAVR is also often much faster - one to two days instead of three to five."

The FDA imposes strict requirements for hospitals to practice TAVR procedures, including successfully completing a certain number of open heart, surgical aortic valve, catheter, and percutaneous coronary interventions per year. HCA Houston Healthcare Conroe has been performing heart procedures for more than 30 years.

"The patients are doing very well," said Matt Davis, CEO of HCA Houston Healthcare Conroe. "I am extremely proud of our team who contributed to the success of our first TAVR cases and know many more will benefit from HCA Houston Healthcare Conroe's continued commitment to raise the bar in patient care."