Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement
Sometimes, the heart’s aortic valve can get thicker and become too narrow—a condition called aortic stenosis. Traditionally, this has been repaired via open-heart surgery to replace the valve. At Overlake, our Structural Heart Team offers an innovative, minimally invasive alternative called transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR).
What is TAVR?
For TAVR, our physicians make a small incision to access an artery. This is usually in the groin, but our physicians have the expertise to also use an incision between the ribs, at the top of the breastbone or directly below your collarbone. Once we make the incision, we use catheters to guide instruments and the new valve through the artery and into the heart.
This minimally invasive approach enables us to replace the valve with fewer risks and complications than open-heart surgery. It also allows patients to leave the hospital faster and recover much more quickly. TAVR is an especially good option for high-risk patients who might not be strong enough to undergo open-heart surgery.
What are the benefits of TAVR?
TAVR’s benefits include:
- It is less invasive than open heart surgery.
- Patients do not need to be supported on a heart-lung machine during the procedure, unlike open-heart surgery.
- TAVR is typically recommended for people who might be considered high risk for open-heart surgery because of age or other health conditions.
- Patients typically leave the hospital after 1–2 days, compared to 5–7 with open-heart surgery.
- Patients return to their normal activities much faster.
What are the risks of TAVR?
Any heart procedure carries risks. TAVR’s risks are similar to the risks of other heart procedures and may include:
- Abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias).
- Valve leakage or failure.
At Overlake, our extensive experience with TAVR enables us to minimize these and keep our patients as safe as possible.
What to expect with TAVR?
Our team carefully evaluates each patient to decide which procedure is the best match for their needs and goals. Each patient meets with an interventional cardiologist, a heart surgeon and other key team members. Patients undergo tests, often including a CT scan and a coronary angiogram, to help our physicians understand their heart and how it functions. Then, our team reviews all the results and makes a recommendation about which procedure is right for you.
Here’s what to expect if you undergo TAVR:
What to expect before TAVR
Before the procedure, the care team will give specific instructions about how to prepare for the procedure based on your or your family member’s individual situation.
What to expect during TAVR
After arriving at Overlake, you will be admitted and prepared for the procedure. TAVR is almost always done under conscious sedation. This means that most patients are awake but relaxed during the procedure and feel no pain. Occasionally, minimal amounts of anesthesia are required. The procedure lasts 30 minutes to an hour.
What to expect after TAVR
After TAVR, patients go to the recovery room. Patients will spend the night with us to monitor their access sites and rhythm. Most patients go home the next day. Most people fully recover within a week. Most patients have a follow-up appointment a month after their TAVR procedure, although some patients have a follow-up visit after a week.
When Bob Wheeler needed to have his aortic valve replaced, our doctors identified him as a great candidate for TAVR.
“You come in not knowing what’s going to happen; you’re scared. But everyone I encountered was super at helping me through the emotional rollercoaster,” Bob says. “My patient navigator, Chelsea, was my guiding light through the physical and emotional process of having the procedure. The TAVR coordinator, Brianna, was always available on the phone and ahead of the process. I think the world of both of them. [And] I was in and out of the operating room in an hour and a half.”