Meet Dr. Neelan Doolabh
Minimally Invasive Heart Valve Surgeon in Dallas

Cardiothoracic surgeon Neelan Doolabh, M.D., is redefining minimally invasive heart surgery for patients in the Metroplex.

For many people with heart conditions such as valve disease, surgery is often put off for as long as possible. “It can be a major insult to your body with significant risks and a long recovery,” Dr. Doolabh says.

Most heart procedures – even those that are called minimally invasive – require that the patient be under anesthesia for four to six hours and for the surgeon to cut through part or all of the patient’s breastbone. The recovery time after these surgeries is six to eight weeks to allow the bone to heal.

Dr. Doolabh, the Director of Minimally Invasive Surgery for UT Southwestern’s Department of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery, is one of an elite group of surgeons who performs valve repairs, valve replacements, and other heart procedures without cutting into any bone at all.

His approach takes two hours and requires only one small incision, which in turn revolutionizes what heart surgery means to patients: less risk of complications, a shorter hospital stay, and less postoperative recovery time.

“Our patients do very well,” Dr. Doolabh says. “They’re usually back to driving in 10 days.”

It also makes heart surgery more viable for people with complex health conditions, for whom traditional heart surgery poses much greater risks.

“We’ve seen that cardiologists are referring patients to me sooner instead of putting it off because they know their patient is going to get a simpler operation,” Dr. Doolabh says.

That means these patients are getting effective treatment before their heart becomes more damaged and their health becomes more compromised.

Experience and Results

Dr. Doolabh has performed more than 1,000 minimally invasive valve surgeries, making him not only the busiest valve surgeon in Texas but also among the few in the country in terms of experience in this minimally invasive technique.

He is recognized by the Society of Thoracic Surgeons for being in the top 3 percent of surgeons in terms of patient outcomes data, including very low rates of complications such as stroke and kidney failure, short hospital stays, and low rates of hospital readmission.

Dr. Doolabh joined the UT Southwestern team in 2016, after 13 years of private practice in Tyler, Texas. He says his main mission in Dallas is to raise awareness of this new approach to heart surgery.

“I really want people to know that if they need a procedure such as valve surgery they have choices, and they can choose this minimally invasive option,” he says. “Instead of getting your chest cracked open, you can get better results with one tiny incision and get back to your life sooner.”

Another part of Dr. Doolabh’s goal is to combine the personal touch of a private practice with the world-class care of an academic medical center.

“It’s an honor to be working with the best and the brightest in their fields,” he says, “and it’s an honor to come back to the place that trained me. UT Southwestern gave me my education, and now I get to offer UT Southwestern patients something that’s not readily available elsewhere.”