Published: Dec 13, 2011 11:17 PM EST
Updated: Dec 13, 2011 11:21 PM EST

FORT MYERS, Fla. - Certain people in need of open heart surgery now have an alternative, and it's putting Southwest Florida on the map.

Health Park is the only hospital in our area to offer this lifesaving, revolutionary procedure.

"This really is exciting. This is perhaps the most revolutionary thing in heart surgery in the 27 years I've been performing surgery," said. Dr. Brian Hummel, a surgeon.

It's called Transcatheter Aortic Heart Valve-- TAVR for short.

For it to work, a catheter is placed through the femoral artery in the groin to the heart.

High definition cameras and a state of the art X-ray machine help doctors navigate their way.

Once in place, the artificial valve is opened and begins to function.

The surgery is done in half the time-- without even opening the chest.

This is the first operating room of its kind in our area, potentially helping thousands of people.

The first TAVR surgery in Southwest Florida is set to take place on Thursday.

This is only available to patients who can't have open heart surgery.

"What we're trying to do is to address those patience who are extremely high risk and might not be a candidate for the typical procedure and that's where this is a tremendous advance," Dr. Hummel said.

Treatment with TAVR is expected to increase a patient's survival rate by 30-40% over a five year period.

Also, post-operative recovery period is significantly shorter than an open heart procedure.

TAVR patients recover within 1-2 weeks, while a traditional recovery takes 3-4 weeks.

Patients interested in learning more about the TAVR procedure can call the Lee Memorial Health System Valve Clinic Coordinator at (239) 343-8836.