Houston Methodist Willowbrook Hospital now offers an advanced procedure with a faster recovery time for patients with heart valve disease as an alternative to open-heart surgery. The hospital’s cardiothoracic surgeons have completed the first two transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) procedures in the Northwest Houston area, with both patients able to return home the next day.


The TAVR procedure is a minimally invasive method of valve replacement for patients with heart valve disease, such as aortic stenosis, when a narrowing of the valve obstructs blood flow and can lead to chest pain, exercise intolerance, heart failure and premature death. The treatment involves replacing the narrowed valve with an artificial one – without opening the chest cavity or stopping the heart.


“This procedure is lifechanging for patients with heart valve disease who previously may not have been a candidate for surgery,” said Clifford Kitten, MD, a cardiovascular surgeon at Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center at Willowbrook. “We are able to eliminate the need for open-heart surgery by accessing and treating the diseased valve through a catheter placed in one of multiple possible arteries, allowing us to safely treat a greater number of patients.”


TAVR is as safe as open-heart surgery and, in many cases, is now the best treatment option. Instead of opening the chest cavity, surgeons access the aortic valve through the femoral artery or an incision in the arm, and replace it with a specially designed artificial valve made of metal alloy and animal tissue. Through these innovations, TAVR can improve survival and quality of life in people who are unable to undergo the stress and recovery time associated with open-heart surgery. Most patients are ready to return home the next day, and they are typically back to normal life within a week or two – compared to six to eight weeks following open-heart surgery.


“This technique is a significant step forward in improving patient experience and recovery,” said Kitten. “Patients have less pain and discomfort, faster recovery times and shorter stays at the hospital.”


The completion of a TAVR surgery is a milestone achievement for Houston Methodist Willowbrook’s Valve Clinic and residents of Northwest Houston, as they can now stay closer to home to receive this lifechanging procedure.


“Previously, we would perform all the pre-TAVR appointments at Houston Methodist Willowbrook and then travel with the patient to Houston Methodist Hospital in the Texas Medical Center for the procedure,” said Devang Parikh, MD, a structural cardiologist at Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center at Willowbrook. “Now, a patient can receive all their care right here. We have highly specialized imaging capabilities and operating rooms with the necessary equipment this procedure requires.”


TAVR must be performed in an operating room with a catheterization lab. The combination provides a higher resolution image than x-ray images, which is what was traditionally used. Surgeons use these real-time images to improve the accuracy and placement of artificial valves, all while being prepared for advanced surgical intervention if needed.


The addition of this hybrid operating room increases the candidate pool for TAVR procedures by allowing significantly more patient volume in Northwest Houston. The Valve Clinic at Willowbrook will continue to benefit from its affiliation with Houston Methodist Hospital in the medical center. Patients of the Houston Methodist Valve Clinic at Willowbrook have access to the hospital system’s clinical trials for a variety of heart valve therapies, expanding opportunities for new procedures and technologies close to home. To learn more about the Houston Methodist Valve Clinic at Willowbrook, visit houstonmethodist.org/valve-clinic.