International Heart Valve Conference Bolsters Dallas’ Profile

Dallas has quietly become the U.S. showcase for innovative heart valve techniques.

Earlier this month, about 1,200 cardiologists and cardiac surgeons converged on the city to hear 70 international experts in the treatment of heart valve disease.

The weeklong meeting included “wet lab” sessions, during which surgeons learned about and practiced new valve replacement techniques on pig cadaver hearts.

The conference name—Dallas- Leipzig Valve 2012—reflects that the meeting rotates annually between Dallas and Leipzig, Germany. This year’s conference was the third held in Dallas.

David Brown, MD, and Michael Mack, MD, were co-directors of the conference. Brown is a cofounder of The Heart Hospital Baylor Plano and managing partner of the Dallas Heart Group. Mack is the medical director of cardiovascular surgery for the Baylor Health Care System and director of cardiovascular research at The Heart Hospital.

Silicon Valley, Boston, and Minneapolis-St. Paul have developed reputations for medical device innovation. Brown and Mack hope that valve conference helps create similar renown for Dallas.

The conference grew out of a relationship the pair had with Fred Moore, whom Brown called the most respected cardiovascular surgeon in Europe.

The conference also included a daylong meeting of Texas Cardiovascular Innovative Ventures, which featured 20 entrepreneurs who pitched their companies to venture capital firms and device manufacturers.

A key focus of the meeting was a procedure called transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR). The procedure has been performed in Europe since 2007. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved TAVR in November 2011 for patients with aortic valve stenosis who are not candidates for open surgery to replace their natural aortic valve.

Aortic stenosis is the most commonly diagnosed heart valve condition, afflicting an estimated 300,000 patients worldwide. About 1 out of 3 are not eligible for open-heart surgery. More than half of patients diagnosed with the disease die within two years, according to FDA.

The standard treatment for the condition is surgical aortic valve replacement, during which a patient’s breastbone is sawn to open up the chest and the heart is stopped. The surgeon removes the diseased valve and sews in a replacement. The procedure typically lasts between 6-8 hours and patient recovery time can last for months. The minimally invasive TAVR can be performed in an hour or two and patient recovery is measured in days.

Brown said clinical trials are under way to make the procedure available to a broader patient population.

Brown said the meeting—which covers “everything valve in the cardiovascular space”—has grown because “success begets success. The (conference) faculty is unsurpassed and the word has spread. We showed 15 live surgeries from The Heart Hospital and Germany. This was a big deal for Dallas.”

Steve Jacob is editor of D Healthcare Daily and author of the new book Health Care in 2020: Where Uncertain Reform, Bad Habits, Too Few Doctors and Skyrocketing Costs Are Taking Us. He can be reached at steve.jacob@dmagazine.com.