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  • Writer's pictureArwen Rasmussen

TAVR Offers a Less Invasive Option Than Open Heart Surgery

By Nichelle Jensen, DNP, APNP, AGACNP-BC, Mercyhealth Heart and Vascular Center

Aortic stenosis is a serious heart condition that causes stiffening and narrowing of the aortic valve. This narrowing, or stenosis, means that the valve does not function properly and could cause damage to the heart. Aortic stenosis is a progressive disease that affects over two million people in the US. It is most commonly caused by calcium build up on the valve leaflets over time, but can also be caused by birth defects, rheumatic fever or radiation therapy.

There are different stages of aortic stenosis ranging from mild to severe. Symptoms of severe aortic stenosis include chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue, dizziness, rapid heartbeat, swelling in the feet or ankles, or passing out. The degree of severity is measured with an ultrasound of the heart called an echocardiogram. Once a determination of severe aortic stenosis is reached, treatment options should be discussed.

When it is time to treat aortic stenosis, patients are sent to heart specialists to discuss aortic valve replacement. Open heart surgery and TAVR (Transcatheter aortic valve replacement) are two options available to replace the heart valve. TAVR is a less invasive option when compared to open heart surgery. During the TAVR procedure a catheter is inserted into an artery in the groin using a small incision or puncture. The thin flexible catheter is then guided up to the aortic valve. Once in place, a balloon is inflated and expands a new heart valve into the old heart valve. The old heart valve is not removed. Patients stay in the hospital an average of two days after TAVR is completed.

The benefits of TAVR include shorter hospital stays, improvement of symptoms, less pain, improved quality of life and shorter recovery time to get patients back to their usual activities. A heart doctor must determine if TAVR is right for each patient.

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