With TAVR, You May Not Need Open Heart Surgery

Minimally invasive heart procedure replaces a damaged or narrowed aortic valve with a closed chest and beating heart

[4 MIN READ]

Typically, heart valve replacement requires open heart surgery and a lengthy hospital stay. With transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), that may no longer be the case.

TAVR is a minimally invasive procedure that replaces a damaged or narrowed aortic valve without opening your chest or stopping your heart. It may be a good option if you are not a candidate for more traditional valve replacement. 

 

 

 

 

 

Narrowed aortic valve, Source: American Heart Association

First, a little background

To understand TAVR, you need to understand how your aorta works.

  • Your aorta carries the blood from your heart and into the rest of your body.
  • Your blood goes from your heart to your aorta through your aortic valve.
  • The aortic valve opens to let the blood flow out of the heart and then closes to keep it from going backwards.

If your aortic valve doesn’t work properly, it restricts the blood flow to your body and brain, which can cause fainting, shortness of breath, swollen legs, and chest pain. If left unaddressed, it can greatly limit your daily activities. You may have aortic valve stenosis, or another valve disorder.

Traditional valve replacement surgery is done under general anesthesia, which means you’ll be asleep while it happens. Your chest is opened and your ribs are cracked to allow the surgeon access to your heart. Your heart is stopped during the procedure, while your surgeon removes your defective valve and replaces it with a man-made alternative. Recovery usually requires an extended hospital stay and several months of restricted activity and rehabilitation.

The process sounds a little dramatic, but it is a time-proven, effective method of addressing the health issues so often found with a defective or damaged aortic valve.

How is TAVR different?

TAVR is less invasive than traditional valve replacement surgery. Your chest remains closed and your heart is not stopped. Your surgeon will decide whether TAVR is done using general anesthesia or heavy sedation. The procedure generally takes two to four hours.

  • A small incision is made in your groin or chest.
  • A thin tube, called a catheter, is threaded through the artery that leads to your heart and aortic valve.
  • Your surgeon guides your new valve through the catheter and places it in your aorta to replace your original aortic valve.
  • The average hospital stay following this procedure is one to four days.

Am I a candidate for TAVR?

TAVR is typically used on people who are not healthy enough to have open heart surgery but need a valve replacement.

You may be a candidate if you:

  • Are having heart issues like fainting, chest pain or shortness of breath
  • Have test results that indicate your aortic valve is damaging your heart’s ability to function correctly
  • Can’t have regular open heart surgery because your health does not allow it

Your surgeon will weigh the risks versus the benefits of TAVR for your specific situation to determine which type of surgery is right for you.

Benefits of TAVR

Because it is less invasive than traditional valve replacement surgery, TAVR offers several benefits, including:

  • Less pain
  • Faster recovery time
  • Shorter hospital stay
  • Reduced risk of infection

Risks of TAVR

As with any surgery, TAVR does present risks, including:

  • Leakage or bleeding around the new valve if it is not the proper size or there are issues with its placement
  • Kidney damage from the dye used for imaging during the procedure
  • Damage to your arteries from passing catheters through them
  • Stroke in a small percentage of people
  • Death in a very small number of people

Find a doctor

Valve replacement surgery can change your life. With your blood flowing correctly, you should experience more energy, less pain and a better quality of life. Find a doctor with the expertise to make it happen in our provider directory. Or use one of the regional directories below:

Alaska

California

Montana

Oregon

Washington

Related resources

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About the Author

The Providence Heart & Vascular Team is committed to bringing you many years of expertise and experience to help you understand how to prevent, treat and recover from cardiovascular diseases and conditions. From tips to eating better to exercise and everything in between, our clinical experts know how to help you help your heart.

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