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SANANTONIO -- Doctors at University Hospital in San Antonio have performed a first-of-its-kind procedure in South Texas. It s a way to replace a heart valve without cracking open the patient s chest.

In the cardiac cath lab, doctors can perform a life-changing procedure in a new way.

Some patients who suffer from aortic stenosis can t tolerate open heart surgery. The disease keeps the valve from working properly, causing shortness of breath, dizziness and chest pain.

Doctors at UH are hailing what they call a landmark change in care.

Although there are roughly 50,000 aortic valve replacements done surgically every year in the United States, there are additionally a large number of individuals who are not offered therapy at all, explained UT Medicine interventional cardiologist Dr. Steven Bailey.

The new procedure is called Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR). It s performed from the inside.

The replacement valve is threaded on a catheter and snaked up to the heart from the groin. The balloon pushes the basket of the new valve into place. The patient s own diseased valve is simply pushed to the side.

The improvement in symptoms for somebody who s got critical aortic stenosis when that is relieved is really striking and remarkable, said UT Medicine cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. A.J. Carpenter.

90-year-old retired Colonel Thomas Woods of Boerne was one of the first two patients to undergo the catheter heart valve replacement in San Antonio.

I would be tired from walking and having to take a breath, he stated. So hopefully that ll be all gone and I ll be able to breathe better and walk better.

The TAVR procedure takes about 90 minutes. The hospital stay is less than half that of conventional open surgery.

Had they not done it here at University, I d have had to go to Dallas or Houston, Woods added. So I was very fortunate to be able to do it right here in San Antonio.

The new cath lab heart valve procedure was approved by the FDA in November. University Hospital expects it to become a widely-used choice for older patients in need of a procedure that can really enhance their quality of life.

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