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Lee Health Helps 1,500 Patients Avoid Open Heart Surgery with TAVR Procedure

From Malissa Wood, Chief Physician Executive with the Lee Health Heart Institute 

In 2011, Lee Health became the second healthcare system in the country to perform transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) procedures.

I’m proud to announce that we’ve now performed more than 1500 TAVR procedures, a major milestone in our program.

Since the creation of the TAVR program, our Shipley Cardiothoracic Center – Lee Health’s cardiothoracic surgery program – continues to make significant strides with this procedure.

TAVR is a minimally-invasive alternative to open heart surgery for patients with severe aortic stenosis, which is a narrowing of the aortic valve that leads to a restriction of blood flow and causes severe symptoms in patients.

Ten years ago, the Shipley cardiothoracic surgeons traveled to Germany to observe a live TAVR procedure, and decided this was a procedure that would benefit Lee Health patients. After receiving further training, preparations were made to launch the first TAVR program in Southwest Florida at HealthPark Medical Center. On Dec. 15th 2011, the team performed their first two TAVR procedures. The next day, they successfully performed two more. Since that time, Shipley’s TAVR program has grown to be the premier program for the procedure.

The benefits of the TAVR procedure compared to open heart surgery are significant. More than half of TAVR patients are able to go home the day after their surgery and can expect to return to normal activities in about one week. Patients having traditional open heart surgery for valve replacement typically will require approximately eight weeks of recovery time. TAVR has an equal or lower risk for complications after surgery.

When we first began performing the TAVR procedure at Lee Health, we only had FDA approval to do high-risk patients, those who were too high risk for open heart surgery. However, since the first research trial, multiple other studies have been conducted which has led to FDA approval for all patients who qualify for a TAVR procedure.

The Shipley Cardiothoracic Center is the largest program in the region performing over 1,500 surgical cases annually. In the last ten years, Shipley surgeons have performed 1,657 transcatheter procedures, which include TAVR and MitraClip, a minimally invasive procedure that repairs the mitral valve.

The Shipley Cardiothoracic Center is located within HealthPark Medical Center, which is recognized as an IBM Watson Top 50 Cardiovascular Hospital. HealthPark is the only hospital in Florida to receive this recognition for four consecutive years.

To learn more about the Shipley Cardiothoracic Center, visit You can also listen to Shipley’s podcast called HeartBeats. It streams on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.