Heroes of Houston heart history featured in book

At some point during his long career at Houston Methodist Hospital, Dr. William Winters realized he was working side by side with living heart history. He thought someone should compile a book to tell the stories he experienced, but never thought he’d be the one to eventually do it.

Houston Hearts: A History of Cardiovascular Surgery and Medicine at the Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center at Houston Methodist Hospital” is the title of Winters’ recently published history book, co-written with Houston writer Betsy Parish.

“Everywhere you looked at (Houston) Methodist Hospital, heart history was being made,” says Winters, who has worked as a cardiologist at the hospital since 1968. “So many breakthroughs, so many discoveries changed medicine around that time … and much of it took place right here in this institution.”

Dr. Winters with his recently-released book, "Houston Hearts."
Dr. Winters with his recently-released book, “Houston Hearts.”

“Houston Hearts”covers the 95-year history of Houston Methodist Hospital, and tells the stories of surgeons and cardiologists who worked here. The chronology kicks into overdrive during the swinging late 1960s, as Dr. Michael DeBakey and his team earned the world’s attention with an unprecedented string of surgical and medical breakthroughs.

“In 1968 we performed nearly one-third of the heart transplants in the country, and nearly one-fifth of the open heart procedures,” Winters says. “DeBakey and his team of surgeons would sometimes perform up to 12 successful surgeries a day. It was a great time to be a new cardiologist in this city.”

Winters and his medical partner Dr. Donald Chapman often marveled at the history that unfolded all around them. Chapman, also a cardiologist, is credited with bringing heart catheterization to Houston, while Winters began the use of echocardiography in Houston. Eventually Chapman would write three books about his own career, and those contained much of the history he experienced after coming to Houston in 1944.

In 1968 Houston Methodist Hospital performed nearly one-third of U.S. heart transplants Click To Tweet

Winters had an idea to create his own unique record by interviewing key physicians on video. He was able to talk with a number of important players in Houston Methodist’s history, including Chapman (who died in 2007) and DeBakey (who died in 2008) as well as other physicians and hospital administrators.

“A few years ago I realized there aren’t many of us left,” Winters recalls. “So I contacted Betsy Parish and we went to work writing this book. It has a lot of history, but it tells my story as well. As I’ve heard it said, the last man standing gets to tell the tale.”

“Houston Hearts” is available now on Amazon.com, and at select bookstores in the Houston area including the River Oaks Bookstore at 3270 Westheimer Ave., and the Houston Methodist Hospital gift shop.

New heart procedure safer for women

Women with a family history of heart disease or other heart disease risk factors should schedule a doctor’s appointment for their annual heart checkup.

Surgeon Inserting Tube Into Patient During Surgery
Radial artery catheterization involves placing a small tube near the thumb side of the wrist. Using X-ray, the physician guides the catheter up to the shoulder and then down to the heart through the radial artery.

At the checkup, some physicians might recommend further testing to rule out or confirm a diagnosis. In the cases where a heart procedure such as a cardiac catheterization is required, women should ask their physicians about using a radial artery approach.

Standard heart catheterization involves inserting a catheter into the femoral artery in the groin and threading it to the heart to perform a variety of tasks, such as measuring the heart, diagnosing conditions, clearing a blockage or placing a stent. A new technique, called a transradial catheterization, inserts the catheter into the radial artery at the wrist.

“The radial artery approach is much safer for women,” said Colin Barker, M.D., cardiologist at the Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center. “A recent clinical trial of more than 1,700 catheterizations in women showed the rates of bleeding or vascular complications were 59 percent lower when using the radial artery approach.”

The catheterization begins when a small tube is placed in the radial artery, which is located on the thumb side of the wrist. Using X-ray, the physician guides the catheter up to the shoulder and then down to the heart through the radial artery.

Barker says the radial artery catheterization is safer because the radial artery is located closer to the skin’s surface, which allows bleeding complications to be spotted sooner. It is also more comfortable for patients. The femoral approach requires patients to lay flat for four to six hours after the procedure, while radial artery catheterization patients are sitting up and getting out of bed within minutes.

Barker noted the radial artery catheterization is used in approximately five percent of cases in Houston and less than 20 percent of cases in the United States.

Transradial catheterization has a 59% lower risk of complications compared to standard heart catheterization Click To Tweet

Barker said the radial artery catheterization is used in 60 to 80 percent of cases outside the U.S. and has become standard medical practice in Europe. He added that it is not being used as often in the United States because it’s a difficult technique that is tedious to learn. More than 80 percent of patients surveyed prefer the radial artery approach, so Barker believes patient preference will help drive up the use of the procedure.

“I’ve seen the benefits it provides my patients, especially women,” Barker said. “I hope the technique becomes more widely available as doctors and hospitals continue to gain experience and proficiency in the procedure.”