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Bilateral Chamber Member, CHI St. Luke’s Health: Cardiac patient: Internationally recognized heart surgeon “a godsend”

Surgeon restores function and quality of life after performing specialized triple valve replacement

After having two back surgeries in 2016, 65-year-old Steve Simpson wasn’t thrilled about having heart surgery in February 2017. Luckily, when his doctors rushed him from College Station to Houston for the procedure, he was treated by a new doctor in town who specializes in minimally invasive heart procedures—Joseph Lamelas, MD

Expert Care Lamelas, associate chief of cardiac surgery in the division of cardiothoracic surgery, joined Baylor College of Medicine in January 2017, and performs surgeries at Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center. Internationally recognized as an expert in the field of minimally invasive heart surgery, Lamelas has completed more than 14,000 cardiac surgical operations over his 26-year career, and is the world’s most experienced minimally invasive cardiac surgeon.

Lamelas performs procedures, including simple congenital cardiac defect repair, cardiac tumor removal, aortic valve and mitral valve procedures, double and triple valve surgery, as well as ascending aorta replacement.

A Shock to the Medical Community While Simpson was at a doctor’s appointment in College Station for residual swelling after his back surgery, his doctor noticed he had an enlarged liver, as well as a murmur on the right side of his heart. His doctor referred him to a cardiologist in College Station, who detected three separate murmurs and a leak in all three valves in the heart: the aortic valve, the mitral valve and thetricuspid valve.

Valves regulate blood flow to and from the heart, similar to doors that must open and shut completely during each cardiac cycle. If the valves don’t work properly, the blood leaks back through the valve, which affects heart function. The valve leaks also led to Simpson’s lung and heart failure, and blood to back up from the heart to the liver, as well as fluid buildup in the abdomen and swelling in the legs. In some patients, the enlarged liver can lead to the development of bleeding disorders. “My condition was a shock to the medical community,” Simpson said. “They said I shouldn’t be walking around, that I shouldn’t be alive.”

Life-Saving Surgery Simpson immediately was sent to Dr. Lamelas at Baylor St. Luke’s in the Texas Medical Center, who performed a minimally invasive triple valve procedure. Without having to crack his chest open for the surgery, Lamelas replaced Simpson’s aortic valve and repaired his mitral and tricuspid valves, all through a two-inch incision on the right side of his chest. “We needed to perform the procedure as soon as possible because the leaking valves would continue to affect the heart function and prevent the heart from pumping blood in a forward direction,” Lamelas said. “This would have ultimately led to heart and respiratory failure.”

Lamelas uses specialized equipment, some of which he has helped develop, to access the heart chambers and valves. Since minimally invasive heart procedures involve a small incision to the right side of the chest, as opposed to opening the breast bone, such procedures result in fewer complications, a shorter stay in the hospital, and a faster recovery after discharge.

Life After Surgery Simpson was discharged from the hospital within a week after his procedure and was told to take it easy for two weeks, and could slowly return to his regular routine afterward.

Simpson now feels healthy and has resumed his normal activities—grocery shopping, using his exercise bike, working in the yard and around the house. His family and friends have even taken notice of the fact that the color has returned to his face and that he’s able to attend social gatherings so quickly after his surgery, often asking him if he thinks they would be good candidates for the surgery due to their own heart conditions.

For more information contact International Services at Baylor St Luke’s Medical Center via email at or call +1 832 355 3350 or visit

Texas Medical Center, Houston, Texas – USA