Baylor Scott & White-College Station unveils heart valve surgery program

Dr. William Gray, medical director of the structural heart program at Baylor Scott & White —College Station, discusses the transcatheter aortic value replacement program at the hospital while standing in front of the mobile C-ARM machine, used in the procedure.

Baylor Scott & White Hospital in College Station had a celebratory conference Wednesday morning to unveil its local transcatheter aortic valve replacement program, which hospital officials said gives area patients a minimally invasive option for treating heart valve issues. 

Six Baylor Scott and White facilities now host the TAVR program. TAVR is designed for people diagnosed with aortic stenosis, which is a blockage of the main valve that allows blood flow from the heart. 

“Aortic stenosis affects over 1.5 million people in the United States,” said Dr. Charles Smith at BSW — College Station. “Aortic stenosis is caused by the calcification and subsequent obstruction of the aortic valve, which decreases the amount of blood that is able to exit the heart and prefuse the rest of the body — including the heart itself, the brain, the kidneys and other vital organs.” 

Dr. William Todd Gray, who works as the medical director of the structural heart program at BSW — College Station, said that the procedure cuts down on patients’ recovery time. Before the development of TAVR, which is an alternative to open heart surgery, patients’ options were limited to more invasive procedures. 

“Today, I can tell you that our program is underway, and it’s successful,” Gray said. He told the room of about 70 attendees that the TAVR program in College Station has completed six successful procedures as of Wednesday morning. 

“This new procedure means patients in the Brazos Valley can stay local, recover close to family and friends and go home — in most cases the next day,” Gray said. 

TAVR works, Gray said, by sending a catheter through a small needle puncture — most often in the leg — that works its way up the artery to the heart and replaces the heart’s aortic valve. BSW hospitals in Plano, Dallas, Fort Worth, Temple and Round Rock also offer the procedure. The FDA approved the procedure for patients with an “extremely high” risk assessment in 2011, and in 2014 the FDA gave “high-risk” approval. It was approved for patients with a low-risk assessment earlier this year. 

Natthalie Hilliard, a 79-year-old resident of the Bryan historic district, had the TAVR procedure done about a month ago in Temple. She attended Wednesday morning’s event and said following the news conference that she’d been experiencing fatigue, leg and foot swelling and shortness of breath. 

Hilliard said that she went in early one day recently and was back in her room following the procedure by midday. 

“I went home the next morning after the surgery,” she said. “ ... We live in a two-story house, and I can now walk up the stairs without stopping two or three times to catch my breath. I can get back to painting and scraping wood. I love to garden, and I can do that again. I just have a new lease on life, is what it amounts to.” 

Jason Jennings, the regional president of BSW, served as the event’s emcee and expressed excitement at what the TAVR program will do for area residents and patients. 

“Today we take the next step in our promise of making health care safer and more accessible to patients than before — in their own community right here in the Brazos Valley,” he said.

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