According to the American College of Cardiology, up to 1.5 million people in the United States suffer from aortic stenosis (AS)—a narrowing of the aortic valve. Nearly 500,000 within this group of patients suffer from severe AS.
Your cardiologist may recommend a transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) if you have severe AS. TAVR can improve AS symptoms and the quality of life for patients unable to repair their aortic valves through more invasive, high-risk procedures like open-heart surgery due to age and medical conditions.
What is TAVR?
TAVR is a minimally invasive procedure that involves a cardiac surgeon guiding a catheter through an artery to the heart with an attached artificial valve. Blood flow is restored when the valve is anchored inside the aorta.
How is TAVR performed?
A cardiac surgeon inserts the catheter through an access point. The most common approach is transfemoral. A catheter is interested and enters through the femoral artery—a large artery in the groin. No surgical incision in the patient's chest is needed.
Other options use a minimally invasive surgical approach. A small incision is made in the chest and the catheter enters through a large artery or vein. These options include:
- Subclavian. An incision is made under the clavicle.
- Transcaval. A puncture is made from the inferior vena cava into the aorta.
- Transaortic. An incision is made into the top of the heart.
- Transapical. An incision is made into the bottom of the heart.
The surgeon uses advanced cardiac imaging to guide the catheter through blood vessels, the heart, and into the aortic valve. The catheter is removed once the valve is securely placed.
General anesthesia or moderate sedation anesthesia is used during a TAVR procedure.
Your doctor will discuss the best access approach for you.
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How is TAVR different than open-heart surgery?
Open-heart surgery is an invasive procedure that involves opening the chest cavity. TAVR is a minimally invasive, catheter-based procedure ideal for patients who cannot tolerate open surgery due to age or a medical condition.
What are the benefits of TAVR?
TAVR has numerous benefits when compared with open-heart surgery, including:
- Less invasive
- Less time under anesthesia
- Smaller incisions
- Less pain
- Shorter hospital stay
- Shorter recovery time
How do you prepare for TAVR?
Talk to your doctor about specific instructions to prepare for your procedure and what to expect post-surgery and after hospital discharge.
Also, make sure to talk to your doctor about medications you may need to stop taking before surgery or start taking after surgery.
What are the risks of TAVR?
Any surgery has risks. Your doctor will review potential complications with you and discuss any concerns you may have.
What is the recovery from TAVR?
TAVR recovery is shorter than open-heart surgery, which can take months. TAVR patients have shown improvement within days or weeks.
Your cardiologist may recommend you join a cardiac rehabilitation program.
What is the follow-up care from TAVR?
The success of a TAVR procedure continues post-surgery. You should maintain follow-up visits with your cardiologist to discuss:
- Improvement in symptoms
- Any new symptoms
- Current medications or need for new medications
- Correct functioning of the valve
As with any cardiac condition, lifestyle management is crucial in maintaining good health. This includes:
- Eating a heart-healthy, well-balanced diet
- Regularly exercising
- Maintaining a healthy weight
- Managing blood pressure
- Managing cholesterol
- Managing diabetes
Find Care at Catholic Health
Catholic Health is home to St. Francis Hospital & Heart Center® in Roslyn, NY—Long Island's most awarded heart program. The hospital performs more TAVRs than any other hospital on Long Island. TAVR is also performed at The St. Francis Heart Center at Good Samaritan University Hospital in West Islip, NY.
St. Francis Hospital & Heart Center® and Good Samaritan University Hospital are rated by U.S. News & World Report as High Performing in TAVR.
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Call 866-MY-LI-DOC (866-695-4362) to find a Catholic Health physician near you.