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Historic Houston operating rooms to close at Methodist

July 8, 2018

Houston Methodist Hospital is about to close operating rooms that were the site of some of the world’s firsts in heart surgery.

After nearly 50 years as one of the Texas Medical Center’s most historic spots, Methodist’s Fonden-Brown ORs will shut down in August as the hospital’s Heart Center moves into the Paula and Joseph C. “Rusty” Walter III Tower. The closure will mark the end of an era defined by legendary surgeon Dr. Michael DeBakey.

“The Fondren-Brown OR served as an incubator for innovation and firsts in heart surgery for nearly 50 years,” said Dr. Michael Reardon, a Methodist cardiothoracic surgeon whose time in the operating room dates back to 1975, when he was a student at then-affiliated Baylor College of Medicine.

“Although the doors are closing, the culture created by Dr. DeBakey will transition into the new Walter Tower where high-tech surgical equipment, bigger operating rooms and advanced imaging will help us continue to push the frontiers of minimally-invasive care of cardiovascular disease,” Reardon said.

Methodist’s Fonden-Brown ORs were the locus of numerous breakthroughs in heart care — the world’s first coronary artery bypass; the first successful autotransplant for cardiac malignancy; the first implantation of the MicroMed DeBakey Ventricular Assist Device; the nation’s first percutaneous implantation of a left ventricular assist device (LVAD); the first repair of a large aneurysm of the aortic arch; and the world’s first multi-organ transplant that included a heart, lung and two kidneys from one donor.

DeBakey’s development of the Dacron graft, one of the TMC’s great stories, made vascular surgery possible by enabling surgeons to replace sections of the artery. He invented the technique on his wife’s sewing machine, using a new material called Dacron he bought at Foley’s department store in downtown Houston when they were out of nylon and vinyon, the fabrics he preferred. He soon determined dacron was superior because it didn’t degenerate over time.

Dr. George Noon, who participated in more than 600 of the more than 1,000 heart transplants performed in the Fonden-Brown OR, said in a statement “it was a very exciting time to be a heart surgeon because we were finding new ways to save lives. It was a great feeling to know we performed so many groundbreaking surgeries in those ORs over the past 50 years.”

The new tower, scheduled to open sometime next month, will occupy 954,7805 square feet on 22 stories and features 366 patients beds and 18 high-tech operating rooms, including four hybrid ORs that combine advanced imaging devices and an OR that will allow for more minimally invasive procedures for cardiovascular surgery and neurosurgery.

todd.ackerman@chron.com

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