First in Fort Bend County

Marvin D. Atkins Jr., MD, left, and Michael H. Koo, MD, completed the first transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) procedure in Fort Bend County. Atkins and Koo performed the successful minimally invasive surgery on a 74-year-old patient suffering from aortic valve stenosis, a narrowing of the valve that obstructs blood flow.

A cardiovascular surgeon and interventional cardiologist at Houston Methodist Sugar Land Hospital recently completed the first transcatheter aortic valve replacement procedure in Fort Bend County.

Board-certified cardiothoracic and vascular surgeon Marvin D. Atkins, Jr., M.D., and board-certified interventional cardiologist Michael H. Koo, M.D., performed the successful minimally invasive surgery on a 74-year-old patient suffering from aortic valve stenosis, a narrowing of the valve that obstructs blood flow.

“TAVR offers significant benefits over traditional valve replacement surgery,” Atkins said. “With TAVR, we don’t have to open the chest; we access the aortic valve via a catheter — either through the femoral artery or sometimes through a small incision in the arm — and replace it with a specially-designed artificial valve. That means shorter hospital stays, less trauma to chest muscles and heart tissue, greatly reduced complications and a much quicker recovery time. It’s a major step forward for our patients.”

The successful completion of the TAVR marked the first major achievement of the new Houston Methodist Valve Clinic at Sugar Land, which opened in April to bring the latest and most sophisticated valve therapies and clinical trials close to home. Atkins and Koo have long performed the TAVR at Houston Methodist Hospital in the Texas Medical Center, but a recent decision by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services made it possible for the procedure to be done at a broader range of institutions.

“In the past, we would perform all the pre-TAVR work in Sugar Land then travel with the patient to Houston Methodist in the medical center to perform the procedure,” said Atkins. “Now, we can handle everything right here because we have the sophisticated imaging capabilities and hybrid operating rooms that these types of procedures require. Most TAVR patients are very ill, with multiple comorbidities, and being able to offer this valuable service of having a valve replacement close to home, with less time in the hospital, can make a big difference in recovery.”

Because of the Valve Clinic’s affiliation with Houston Methodist Hospital, patients at the clinic in Sugar Land also have access to clinical trials for a variety of heart valve therapies, expanding opportunities for new procedures and technologies close to home.

“There are always multiple valve trials under way at Houston Methodist and our patients from Fort Bend and surrounding areas can participate, if eligible,” said Atkins. “We are working hard to grow our involvement in these trials so that more local patients can benefit.”

Atkins said that TAVR may soon be approved in the United States for use with patients who suffer from aortic valve stenosis but are considered low risk for open heart surgery.

“That is the next step for us,” said Atkins. “TAVR can potentially benefit many more people who suffer from valve stenosis and require a replacement. The data on low-risk patients involved in TAVR clinical trials has been very good and it makes sense to move toward less-invasive procedures whenever possible.”

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