Don’t ignore shortness of breath: it could be the sign of a heart valve problem
The Houston Methodist Valve Clinic at Sugar Land is giving patients suffering from aortic valve stenosis and other conditions new hope for a healthier future.
The Valve Clinic opened in 2019, bringing the latest and most sophisticated valve therapies and clinical trials to Fort Bend and surrounding counties. One of the clinic’s earliest achievements was the completion of the first transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) procedure in Fort Bend County, performed by board-certified cardiothoracic and vascular surgeon Marvin D. Atkins, Jr., M.D., and board-certified interventional cardiologist Michael H. Koo, M.D.
Aortic valve stenosis is a narrowing of the heart valve that obstructs blood flow. More than 200,000 cases are diagnosed in the U.S. each year, usually in people over the age of 50.
The minimally invasive TAVR procedure offers significant benefits over traditional open-heart valve replacement surgery. During the procedure, Atkins and Koo work side-by-side to access the aortic valve via a catheter – placed through the femoral artery or a small incision in the arm – and replace it with a specially designed artificial valve.
With TAVR, patients experience less trauma to chest muscles and heart tissue, greatly reduced complications, a shorter hospital stay and a much faster recovery.
Emma Purvey of Sugar Land was the first patient to receive the TAVR procedure locally. Purvey had been struggling for some time with shortness of breath that she originally thought might be asthma. But one night, when she woke up gasping for air, her youngest son convinced her to seek emergency care, and she was admitted to the hospital. Testing done at the Valve Clinic showed that her aortic valve was critically blocked, requiring replacement.
“I had reached the point where I couldn’t walk for long without getting short of breath,” said Purvey. “I remember one day getting ready to leave work, and I had to sit down on a bench outside the building to catch my breath before walking across the parking lot to my car. But all that time, I didn’t realize it was a heart problem and not a breathing problem.”
According to Atkins and Koo, it is common for shortness of breath or wheezing due to aortic valve stenosis to be attributed to asthma or even just getting older.
“Because symptoms often get worse gradually, it’s easy to overlook the fact that you are slowing down or minimizing your activities,” said Koo. “Patients don’t realize they have an underlying valve condition that is reducing blood flow to the body, causing them to lack sufficient oxygen. They just feel they can’t do the same things they used to do. Anyone over the age of 50 who frequently experiences shortness of breath or wheezing should see a cardiologist.”
Purvey said her procedure has made all the difference. One year later, she is symptom-free and back to being active.
“My experience with Dr. Atkins and Dr. Koo was amazing,” said Purvey. “They were so good to me, and everyone in my family loved how well they communicated throughout my hospital stay.”
Some patients with specific complications aren’t eligible for TAVR, but Atkins said most people suffering from aortic valve stenosis can benefit. “TAVR has quickly become the gold standard for treating aortic valve stenosis because it improves blood flow significantly without the risks and challenges associated with open-heart surgery. Ms. Purvey is a perfect example – she had a quick recovery with no issues, and today is doing phenomenally well.”
In addition to TAVR and traditional open-heart valve replacement, the Houston Methodist Valve Clinic at Sugar Land performs a wide range of other valve therapies and procedures, including mitral valve repair and paravalvular leak repair. Atkins and Koo are supported by state-of-the-art imaging technology and highly skilled cardiac imaging specialists.
The Valve Clinic also handles all aspects of care locally, which means there is no need to go to the medical center for diagnostic testing or surgery. The clinic even offers a number of clinical trials for new and emerging technologies and treatments.
“Having access to specialized care and clinical trials – all close to home – is really important for many patients,” said Atkins. “It increases patient options, reduces the stress and anxiety of having a procedure done and makes follow-up care more convenient.”
The Houston Methodist Valve Clinic at Sugar Land is located on the Houston Methodist Sugar Land campus in Medical Office Building 3, Suite 560. The Valve Clinic offers:
• Individualized treatment plans
• Advanced imaging technology, including 3D imaging techniques
• Leading-edge research and access to clinical trials for better options
• A dedicated clinic coordinator to guide patients through the process
To schedule an appointment with Dr. Koo or another cardiologist with Houston Methodist Cardiology Associates at Sugar Land, call 713.776.9500. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Atkins or another cardiothoracic or vascular surgeon with Houston Methodist Cardiovascular Surgery Associates at Sugar Land, call 713.352.1820.
Visit houstonmethodist.org/sugarland to learn more about Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital.