transcatheter aortic valve replacement(TAVR)

overview

Your hearts aortic valve should open and close freely, allowing blood to flow to your heart. When your heart valve is too narrow or grows stiff due to calcium buildup (typically seen in older adults) – blood flow is restricted and you may have a disease called aortic stenosis.

An estimated 1.5 million people in the U.S. are currently diagnosed with this debilitating condition. Most patients can be treated with a surgical aortic valve replacement, but there are some people for whom open-heart surgery is too risky. In those cases, a transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) can be a good option.

TAVR is a minimally invasive procedure used to replace the aortic valve and treat aortic stenosis. It results in a smaller incision than traditional open heart surgery, and it takes less time, which may result in a shorter recovery time.

If you have aortic stenosis and it's not treated, your heart valve will weaken. You’ll experience fatigue, dizziness, chest pain or pressure, a heart murmur, shortness of breath during activity, heart palpitations and fainting. Left untreated, 50% of patients with this serious condition are not expected to live more than 2 years.

why Aurora?

Aurora performed the first transcatheter aortic valve replacement in Wisconsin and today performs more replacements than any other health system in the state.

The TAVR Program at Aurora St. Luke’s is one of the top 5 sites in the U.S. based on volume, outcomes, clinical trials and training. We are the largest and most experienced site in Wisconsin, providing a less-invasive solution for patients with complex, high-risk heart problems who are not candidates for open-heart surgery.

  • By the numbers: We have completed more than 450 TAVR procedures and more than 400 aortic valve replacement (AVR) procedures. Our patient’s average length of hospital stay is 3 days shorter than surgical AVR, with a 100% procedural success rate.
  • Advanced options: Because of our high volume of complex heart procedures, we can ensure our patients access to advanced technology options that no other system in Wisconsin can offer. Plus, we offer multiple active clinical trials to evaluate the newest procedures and devices.
  • Team collaboration: Our multidisciplinary team of cardiovascular surgeons and cardiologists performs complex procedures that are less invasive—meaning they require smaller incisions and are less stressful on your body. Multispecialty collaboration can give our patients better experiences and outcomes.
  • Leader in the field: Our program draws patients from around the world who have been told they have no other treatment options. In 2015, Aurora St. Luke’s was designated a national TAVR physician training center.

what to expect

Before you have a TAVR procedure, you’ll have a few medical tests, such as:

  • A cardiac catheterization, to check the arteries in your heart.
  • A CAT scan of your chest and abdomen to help our team figure out the right size for replacement valve 
  • Pulmonary function testing done to check how you breathe. 
  • Lab tests will be done to check your kidney function, electrolytes and blood counts. 

TAVR is done in the cardiac cath (catheterization) lab. The anesthesiologist, cardiologist and cardiac surgeon work together to perform the procedure. 

You’ll be completely asleep under general anesthesia throughout the procedure. Your blood pressure, heart rate and breathing will be monitored closely. 

During a TAVR, the new valve is placed inside the old valve with the use of a catheter that’s treaded through a small incision in your groin. The valve can also be inserted through a small opening in the chest. 

The procedure takes a few hours, usually less time than open-heart surgery.

recovery

After the valve replacement it complete, you’ll be taken to the intensive care unit (ICU) to be looked after. 

You’ll be in the ICU for 1 to 2 days, and then moved to the cardiac step-down unit, where you’ll work with physical and occupational therapists and cardiac rehab staff to start moving around again. 

Most patients are prescribed a blood thinner (aspirin and Plavix) after the procedure, which you’ll keep taking until your doctor says it’s OK to stop.

The typical hospital stay after a TAVR is 3 to 5 days. You can expect about a 1 week recovery period.

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