Considered a minimally invasive procedure, TAVR provides an alternative treatment option for patients who may not be candidates for open-heart valve-replacement surgery. The procedure, which received FDA approval in November 2011, is performed on patients who have aortic stenosis, a progressive narrowing of the valve that controls blood flow to the heart. When the body does not get enough blood, the heart has to work harder to make up for it. If the valve problem is not resolved, it can lead to abnormal heartbeats, heart failure and permanent damage to the heart. Aortic stenosis can be life threatening.
What Does the Procedure Entail?
Similar to cardiac catheterizations performed to clear blockages in heart vessels, the TAVR procedure utilizes a minimally-invasive approach in which a thin tube called a catheter is inserted near the groin into a large artery at the top of the leg and threaded into the heart.
After the catheter is precisely positioned in the heart, a balloon-expandable aortic heart valve is implanted to replace the damaged valve. The delivery system is designed to allow for controlled placement, minimizing impact to surrounding structures within the heart. Once in place, the new valve will function like a healthy valve with proper blood flow and improved heart function.
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The TAVR procedure is performed by specially trained and highly skilled interventional cardiologists in a sophisticated hybrid OR at St. Mary that is equipped with the advance instrumentation and high-end imaging needed to perform complex transcatheter procedures.
The procedure typically takes about 60 to 90 minutes, compared to four to six hours for open-heart surgery, and the recovery time for patients is substantially shorter – one-to-two weeks – compared to six to eight weeks for open surgery for valve replacement.
What is Aortic Stenosis?
It is estimated that approximately five percent of the population ages 75 and over have aortic stenosis, with most signs developing when the narrowing of the valve is severe. Symptoms can include chest pain or tightness, feeling faint, shortness of breath, fatigue, heart palpitations and heart murmur. Patients suffering with severe aortic stenosis often develop debilitating symptoms that can restrict normal day-to-day activities, such as walking or climbing stairs. Other than a valve repair or replacement, there currently are no long-term treatment options to prevent or delay the progression of the disease.