Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement

Aortic Stenosis and TAVR

With each heartbeat, blood is pumped from the heart into the aorta—the largest artery in the body. But for as many as 1.5 million Americans, the valve between the heart and the aorta doesn’t function properly. This is called aortic stenosis.

In aortic stenosis, the heart valve becomes calcified, preventing it from opening wide enough to allow all of the blood from the lower left chamber of the heart—called the left ventricle—to move into the aorta during a heartbeat. This reduces the amount of oxygen-rich blood circulating to the rest of the body. To compensate, the left ventricle may begin pumping harder, causing complications such as heart failure.

Patients with severe aortic stenosis may experience a variety of symptom including:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Heart palpitations

Without proper care, severe aortic stenosis can reduce quality of life and may even be fatal.

Minimally invasive valve replacement for aortic stenosis

Until recently, the primary treatment for aortic stenosis has been to replace the aortic valve during open heart surgery. Open heart surgery can be difficult—particularly for older patients—and around half of the aortic stenosis patients who could benefit from the procedure are not healthy enough for open surgery. More than 30 percent of all patients with symptomatic severe aortic stenosis are unable to have valve replacement surgery. Scripps now offers an alternative to traditional open heart surgery for aortic stenosis called transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR).

This minimally invasive procedure uses small, flexible tubes called catheters for the procedure rather than a traditional chest incision.

About TAVR

As part of the PARTNER (Placement of AoRtic traNscathetER valves) trial, Scripps cardiovascular surgeons and interventional cardiologists were among the first to test the effectiveness and safety of these new aortic valves.

During a transcatheter aortic valve replacement procedure, a catheter is inserted into the femoral artery in the groin and navigated through the arteries to the heart using advanced imaging techniques. Once the new valve is positioned inside the faulty aortic valve, a small balloon on the catheter inflates it to its full size and locks it in place inside the aortic heart valve. The replacement valve has three leaflets, or flaps, that are similar to the original heart valve. They begin working immediately after the new heart valve is in place, opening and closing to properly allow the blood to flow from the heart to the rest of the body.