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Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) is a treatment for those who suffer from severe symptomatic aortic stenosis.

What is aortic stenosis?

Aortic stenosis is a common condition caused by the build-up of calcium on the aortic valve’s leaflets (flaps of tissue that open and close to regulate the one-way blood flow through the aortic valve). This build-up of calcium impedes the aortic valve’s ability to fully open and close. As a result, the valve narrows and allows less oxygen-rich blood to flow from the lungs to the brain and the rest of the body.

You may experience these symptoms:

  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain
  • fatigue
  • lightheadedness
  • blackouts
  • swelling in both legs
  • fluid overload (also known as heart failure)

These symptoms may result in a hospital stay. Severe aortic stenosis will continue to progress, meaning the valve will continue to narrow. Without treatment, it can lead to a weakened heart and eventually death.

How do you know if you need TAVR?

If you have symptoms that may be related to severe aortic stenosis, or have been diagnosed with this condition, you will be referred to a specialist for further evaluation. The Valve Clinic will help determine if valve replacement is needed and what is the best way to replace the valve, either through traditional open-heart surgery or TAVR.

What is TAVR?

With TAVR, a new heart valve is placed into the body with a tube-based delivery system called a catheter. This system allows the valve to be inserted through a puncture in an artery in the groin (called transfemoral access). The new, expandable heart valve is made of a strong, metal stent frame with leaflets (flaps of tissue) sewn into the inside. During the procedure, your current, faulty heart valve will be opened and pushed against the heart wall. The new valve will take its place by expanding its strong stent frame into the old calcified tissue. The new leaflets will start to work instantly, allowing blood flow out of the heart and into your body to supply the brain, organs and muscles with oxygen.

Some people are not candidates for the transfemoral access procedure because their groin arteries are not large enough. Instead, these patients may be candidates for valve placement through a catheter with an incision or puncture into an artery near the shoulder or collar bone (subclavian or axillary access).

Who is a TAVR candidate?

People who are at moderate or higher risk for complications during open heart surgery may be candidates for TAVR. Candidates will undergo a full evaluation, which includes imaging studies (CT scan, lung function test and angiogram) and consultations with Valve Clinic team members. Once completed, we will make our best recommendations based on your individual situation.

Why undergo TAVR?

In many cases TAVR is an excellent, less invasive option for valve replacement. TAVR has shown to improve symptoms many people encounter daily due to severe aortic stenosis. TAVR decreases the workload of the heart and results in reduced shortness of breath, increased ability to tolerate activity, heightened energy levels and improved fluid balance within the body. It can also reduce the frequency of hospital stays.

For those who have symptoms of severe aortic stenosis, TAVR may be necessary. Without valve replacement, the heart can weaken, and symptoms of heart failure can continue to progress leading to a poor quality of life.

However, TAVR is not always the best option for everyone. Our experienced team will make a recommendation on the best approach to your care based on a full assessment.

Why our program?

Our Valve Clinic started performing TAVR in 2013. We have grown rapidly, completing TAVR procedures on hundreds of patients each year. Our program is well known for its great care and excellent outcomes. We specialize in alternative access for TAVR and lead the nation in use of the subclavian and axillary approach. Specializing in this approach allows us to provide more options and opportunities for those in need of TAVR to relieve symptoms related to aortic stenosis.

In addition, unlike some other facilities, most of our patients can have the procedure under conscious sedation, meaning they are awake, but sleepy, and no breathing tube or general anesthesia is needed. Doing so can improve outcomes and shorten hospital stays.


Patient Stories

If you have questions about our program, our Valve Clinic coordinators would be happy to assist you. Please call us at 320-293-0750 or email us.

Heart Structural Disease Providers