An Important Step for Heart Health

CHRISTUS Spohn reunites patients with their clinicians for their one-year anniversary of undergoing transcatheter aortic valve replacement, an innovative new heart procedure that just might be the future of cardiology.

By: Steven Alford
Photos by: Steven Alford


It was a heartfelt reunion at CHRISTUS Spohn as one year after introducing a breakthrough, minimally invasive heart procedure, the health system reunited the first 18 patients to undergo the procedure with the doctors who made it happen.

The heart patients received the star treatment at the event, held at the ultra-modern Dan A. Hughes Family Hybrid Surgical Suite where the procedures take place. There, CHRISTUS Spohn physicians and administration honored the group with a heart healthy meal, and crystal heart-shaped awards etched with the date of the reunion.

“It really means a lot for our TAVR team to reunite with these patients and see how this new procedure has improved their health and changed their lives,” said Kristine Hungate, chest pain center coordinator at CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital-Shoreline. Often, patients never get a chance to meet the physicians and clinicians who perform the procedure, she added. “This is a great way to bring them all together to say ‘thank you.’”

The procedure is called transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR for short. The procedure foregoes the traditional open-heart surgery methods, to instead place a tiny artificial heart valve inside a patient’s chest by accessing a vein in the thigh. It means less risk for the patient’s health, and a much shorter recovery time.

“I’m so thankful for this wonderful group of doctors and nurses,” said 93-year-old Evelyn Nichols, the very first TAVR patient in South Texas. “I would not be here today if it were not for them.”

The new minimally invasive procedure is only offered at CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital-Shoreline, and it adds important years to patients’ lives who might not have any other options to repair congestive heart disease. To date, transcatheter valves have been implanted in more than 70,000 patients worldwide.


The procedure is best suited for those patients who are not ideal candidates for traditional heart-valve replacement procedures. The TAVR procedure forgoes opening the chest to access the heart, an operation that can cause complications for patients such as seniors who are already weakened, or those with other underlying health conditions. And it might just be the future of cardiology.

“There’s much less risk involved with this procedure,” said Dr. Srikanth Damaraju, a cardiologist who practices at CHRISTUS Spohn Hospital Corpus Christi-Shoreline. “Right now we’re looking to improve the lives of our elderly patients, but I suspect this will soon be the standard for all ages.”

It’s an important step for the health for the community: Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, taking the lives of approximately 600,000 Americans each year, while more than five million Americans are diagnosed with heart valve disease each year.

It’s a life-changing operation that can add years to a person’s life, something TAVR patient Erasmo De la Rosa said he and his family are very grateful for. “This truly was blessing,” De la Rosa said. “Thank you.”

CHRISTUS Spohn Health System is the region’s largest hospital system in South Texas, consisting of six hospital campuses throughout the Coastal Bend. The health system is consistently ranked a health care leader in the area, and it has received national recognition for several pioneering programs, including trauma, cardiac care, clinical excellence and oncology. For more than 100 years, CHRISTUS Spohn has been distinguished by its high-caliber staff and affiliated physicians, its comprehensive and innovative services and its long history of responding to the needs of the community it serves.


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