For people in our area who have heart problems, but are either too sick or too weak for traditional open-heart surgery, there is finally a solution.
There's a new surgery being offered for the first time in the Brazos Valley.
For the past several years, Dr. William Gray has been working with a specialized heart valve team in Dallas and now he's brought that knowledge and expertise to the Brazos Valley at St. Joseph Regional Health Center. His specialty is a surgery called Balloon Valvuloplasty.
Dr. Gray says, "We insert a balloon across a narrowed and very stiff aortic valve. It opens up the aortic valve a increases cardiac output."
It's something, he says, that is definitely needed here.
"Aortic stenosis is the most common heart disease in the elderly population in the United States. We have patients coming in with that diagnosis every single day."
The problem is, many of those elderly patients are too sick or too weak to undergo traditional open-heart surgery, so up until now, they had no choice but to deal with the symptoms.
Dr. Gray says, "Things like inability to complete their tasks of everyday living, chest pain, even passing out spells."
On top of that, they often have to go back to the hospital frequently. Congestive heart failure is the number one reason for re-admittance.
"We can use this procedure to reduce the likelihood of repeat hospitalizations and improve their quality of life."
The most recent patient was an 88-year-old woman who had lived with a heart murmur all her life and was hospitalized over and over again.
Since undergoing this new procedure two months ago, she has not been back once.
This is the first step in a larger heart program at St. Joseph. They plan to open a valve institute next year where they'll be able to perform more of these surgeries and others that haven't been available in our area before.