Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement - Frequently Asked Questions

For patients who have been deemed high or greater risk for traditional open-chest surgery, a procedure called transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) may be a treatment option. TAVR allows the aortic valve to be replaced, and like open-heart surgery, TAVR produces results in improving patients’ quality of life and lifespan. Patients with a history of stroke, prior chest radiation, prior open heart surgery, COPD, frailty, renal insufficiency, advanced age, and other conditions may be appropriate for TAVR.

Some of the advantages of TAVR include shorter hospital stays and quicker recovery times. In addition, many TAVR procedures are done under sedation instead of general anesthesia.

As with any procedure, there are a few risks. Some of the risks for TAVR include bleeding at the catheter insertion site, vascular damage, infection, abnormal heart rhythms, and stroke. These and other risks will be discussed during the screening process.

The TAVR screening process utilizes a patient-focused multidisciplinary team approach. Not only will the patient meet with an interventional cardiologist, but they will see two separate surgeons to help determine the right approach. Other members of the team include the TAVR nurse coordinator, anesthesiology, cath lab and operating room staff, and imaging specialists. CHI St. Vincent’s interdisciplinary heart team meets weekly to review cases and plan the best approach for each patient.

The screening process for TAVR is extensive, and includes a complete medical history, an EKG, and an echocardiogram. If the patient is deemed to be a good candidate for surgery or TAVR, cardiac catheterization is performed to exclude significant coronary artery disease. A CT of the chest is performed to evaluate the anatomy of the heart.

Other tests may include a CT of the abdomen and pelvis, a chest x-ray, ultrasound of the arteries in the neck, and pulmonary function studies. Additional studies may be ordered by the physicians based on an individual’s specific conditions.

Typically a patient will spend about one to five days in the hospital, depending on the approach used in the TAVR procedure.

The only effective treatment for severe aortic stenosis is to completely replace the diseased aortic valve.

Each patient receives detailed instructions after the procedure to ensure a full recovery. They are encouraged to stay active during the recovery process. While on pain medication, patients are discouraged from driving or operating heavy machinery.