If you or a loved one has severe aortic stenosis — narrowing of the aortic valve in your heart – you have options. If you’ve been diagnosed with severe aortic stenosis and are at an intermediate or greater risk for open heart surgery, Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement, or TAVR, may be an effective alternative to surgery.
Previously, open heart surgery for an aortic valve replacement was the only real long-term solution for aortic stenosis. Now, the interventional cardiology team at Vassar Brothers Medical Center is the first and only in the region to offer TAVR, a life-transforming procedure that offers a minimally invasive approach.
What is TAVR?
What makes TAVR different from open heart surgery is that it uses a less invasive approach to treat a diseased aortic valve. The most common technique involves a small incision made in the leg, shoulder or chest, depending on which site is the best entry point for you.
You may be fully asleep, or you may be awake but given medication to help you relax and block pain. Your heart will continue to beat during the procedure. This is quite different from open heart surgery, in which your heart is stopped and you are placed on a heart and lung blood machine.
During the procedure your interventional cardiologist will make the small incision and a catheter will be inserted into your artery while your heart is beating. Guided by real-time imaging, your cardiac doctor will then guide the catheter up to your heart and will replace the diseased aortic valve. Depending on your health and the procedural approach selected, the average TAVR procedure lasts approximately 1.5 hours. In comparison, the average open heart surgery lasts approximately 4 hours.
Who performs TAVR?
Our TAVR team is made up of a specialized heart team that includes interventional cardiologists, cardiologists, cardiovascular surgeons, cardiac imaging and testing specialists, nurses and catheterization laboratory technicians. This team has special training on TAVR and collaborates before and during your procedure to ensure you receive the best possible care.
Where is TAVR performed?
Your TAVR procedure will be performed at Vassar Brothers Medical Center, which is recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the the nation’s highest performing hospitals for heart failure and heart bypass (2017–2018).
What are the benefits of TAVR?
Because your aortic valve is not being replaced and your chest is not opened, your recovery time will be quicker and very soon you’ll notice the differences in the following areas:
- Your symptoms will be reduced, sometimes right away
- Your heart function will improve
- You’ll be able to take part in activities of daily living
- You will regain control of your life
What is recovery like after a TAVR procedure?
Your TAVR doctor will give you specific instructions to help you with your TAVR procedure recovery, which may include a special diet, exercise, and medication. It is important to carefully follow your doctor’s directions, especially if blood-thinning drugs are prescribed. TAVR patients can usually return home within several days.
The most important aspect of life after your TAVR procedure is that you will feel much better than you did at the time of your diagnosis. Your heart will be functioning as it should be and life may return to normal.
Ask your doctor or Heart Center cardiologist about whether TAVR might be right for you or your loved one.