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TAVR is a lifesaving, minimally invasive surgical procedure that’s used to treat aortic stenosis. Aortic stenosis happens when your heart valve is too narrow or stiff due to calcium buildup, and blood can’t flow freely through the valve. This condition can make it hard to breathe and can even be life-threatening.
During a transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) — sometimes called an implantation (TAVI) — your surgeon inserts a replacement aortic valve to the site of the damaged aortic valve using a catheter. After the new aortic valve is put in place, it starts to take over the work of the damaged valve and regulate blood flow on its own.
Aurora Health Care offers the largest and most experienced TAVR program in the region. As pioneers in this minimally invasive approach, we’ve helped more than 1,000 people regain their heart valve function, their energy and the lives they love.
Our interventional cardiologists performed the first TAVR procedure in Wisconsin. Today, we perform more replacements than any other health system in the region.
In many cases, aortic valve replacement requires open heart surgery. During this surgery, known as a sternotomy, surgeons open a patient’s chest so they can access the aortic valve.
But for some people, open heart surgery to replace the aortic valve isn’t an option because of their health or scarring from previous heart surgery.
If traditional valve replacement surgery is considered too high-risk, TAVR is FDA-approved to address and correct diseased and damaged aortic valves. Because it is minimally invasive, the risk of major complications is lowered and hospital stays tend to be shorter.
TAVR is a minimally invasive procedure to replace the aortic valve and treat aortic stenosis. Doctors perform TAVR by inserting a replacement valve through a blood vessel in the groin or small incision in the chest. This makes opening the chest unnecessary.
TAVR requires only a small incision to insert the catheters (thin, flexible tubes) and takes less time than traditional open heart surgery. These benefits plus avoiding the need to open the breastbone result in a shorter recovery time.
Before you have a TAVR procedure, you’ll have a few medical tests, such as:
We perform TAVR in our hybrid cardiac cath (catheterization) lab. The anesthesiologist (doctor who puts you to sleep and manages pain), cardiologist (heart specialist) and heart surgeon work together to perform the procedure.
The procedure takes about one and a half hours, less time than open heart surgery.
After we complete the heart valve replacement, you’ll go to a recovery room or the intensive care unit (ICU).
Most people receive a blood thinner, such as aspirin and/or clopidogrel (Plavix®), after the procedure. You’ll keep taking this medication until your doctor says it’s OK to stop.
Like all procedures, there are certain risks and complications involved when undergoing a TAVR. These could range from issues with the replacement valve to heart rhythm abnormalities or infection, and in rare cases, death.
If you’re wondering if a TAVR procedure is safe, know that’s it’s often the best choice for patients with intermediate or advanced aortic stenosis. For these people, TAVR may actually improve overall health and lower the risk of death.
The main benefits of a TAVR procedure include shorter hospital stays and fewer major complications than open heart surgery. According to the American College of Cardiology, survival rates between TAVR and open heart surgery are similar in the two years following the procedure for high-risk patients.