At your recent cardiology appointment, perhaps “TAVR” was mentioned as an option for treating aortic stenosis. But what exactly is TAVR?
TAVR is a relatively new and innovative way of treating aortic stenosis. In cases where surgery is needed to replace the aortic valve, this minimally invasive procedure offers an alternative to traditional open procedures.
Open procedures to replace the aortic valve have long been the standard treatment for severe aortic stenosis. An open procedure, however, may not be recommended for older or frail patients. TAVR offers a less invasive option for replacing the valve with comparable outcomes for many patients.
What conditions does TAVR treat?
TAVR, which stands for transcatheter aortic valve replacement, is a procedure used to treat aortic stenosis. Aortic stenosis occurs when the aortic valve narrows, limiting blood flow from the left ventricle to the aorta. This, in turn, causes the heart to work harder and weaken over time, leading to heart failure.
The condition is most common among older adults—more than 20% of adults ages 65 and older have aortic stenosis.
Many people with aortic stenosis don’t experience symptoms, particularly when the condition first develops. As the valve narrows more, stenosis can cause a number of symptoms, including:
- Chest pain
- Decline in activity level
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty sleeping
- Difficulty walking even short distances
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Rapid or fluttering heartbeat
- Shortness of breath
- Swollen ankles or feet
Mild cases of aortic stenosis may be treated with monitoring, lifestyle changes and medications. Serious cases of aortic stenosis often require valve repair or replacement, like TAVR.
How does TAVR work?
During an open procedure to replace the aortic valve, known as surgical aortic valve replacement or SAVR, the chest is opened up to allow access to the heart. The patient is placed on a heart-lung machine, and then the diseased aortic valve is replaced.
During TAVR, on the other hand, the valve is replaced without the chest being opened. Instead, a small tube called a catheter is inserted into an artery, usually the femoral artery in the groin. The catheter containing the replacement valve is then guided to the diseased aortic valve and implanted in its place.
The TAVR procedure is an option for almost any patient with aortic stenosis. Because it is minimally invasive rather than an open-heart procedure, TAVR offers a treatment option even for patients considered ineligible for other procedures.
Those who undergo TAVR typically experience similar outcomes to those who have SAVR but with a quicker recovery. Because the chest isn’t opened up to access the heart, patients who have TAVR are usually discharged from the hospital much sooner, have a reduced risk of complications, and experience less pain and discomfort during the recovery process.
If you’re experiencing aortic stenosis, Georgia Heart Institute offers TAVR as an option for your treatment plan. Call 770-219-5242 or click here for more information.