TAVR: Reimagining Heart Surgery

UPMC Susquehanna provides transcatheter aortic valve replacement

by Kristy Warren – February 23, 2018

As we age, our aortic valve is subject to wear and tear. Over time, the heart muscle can thicken, preventing an adequate flow of oxygen-rich blood to the body and creating congestion in the lungs.
This narrowing of the aortic valve, called aortic stenosis, is a common and serious heart valve problem. Without treatment, it has a prognosis worse than most cancers. Fortunately, valve replacement can reverse the effects of aortic stenosis, relieve symptoms and return life expectancy to normal. But for 40-60 percent of patients, replacement was previously not an option because they were considered too frail or aged to withstand traditional open heart surgery.

Typically, the demands of open heart surgery are too risky for patients in their late 80s – 90s and in those who have severe pulmonary disease or a history of previous heart operations. Now, there’s an FDA-approved, minimally invasive procedure called transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) that provides medical teams with an effective treatment for high-risk patients.

How is TAVR performed?

The TAVR procedure is performed through a small puncture in the leg, shoulder or neck to access a main artery then fishes a catheter through the aorta to insert a compacted replacement valve within the damaged aortic valve. Once the replacement is in position, it is expanded to fit the heart opening. Imaging technology assures the valve is working properly before the procedure is concluded. Because TAVR is a minimally invasive procedure, recovery times are often dramatically shorter than those for a traditional heart valve replacement patient. Compared to a typical five-day hospital recovery for open heart surgery patients, a TAVR patient may be discharged within two days, often with no limitations.

Is TAVR right for me?

Following a thorough examination and pre-operative tests, UPMC Susquehanna’s dedicated heart team meets to determine the best course of treatment for each patient on an individual basis. While the traditional valve replacement method is currently still considered the safer and more durable option for low-risk candidates, TAVR provides another helpful option for treating aortic arterial stenosis in intermediate and high-risk patients.
To learn more about TAVR and maintaining your heart health, visit upmcsusquehanna.org/heart.

Idea/Concept: Kristy Warren
Videography: Andrew Moore
Video Editing: Andrew Moore
Writing: Kristy Warren
Anchor: Sara Vogt
Correspondent: John Vogt

Produced by Vogt Media
Funded by UPMC Susquehanna

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