Scripps interventional cardiologists are San Diego’s leaders in TAVR, a procedure to replace a heart’s aortic valve that has narrowed and can pose life-threatening risks to a patient.
Scripps heart doctors were among the first nationally to test TAVR in clinical trials before the procedure received FDA approval in 2011. Hundreds of Scripps patients have benefitted from TAVR as a treatment for heart valve disease.
The procedure provides a minimally invasive option for those whose age or health condition prohibits them from open heart surgery to replace a damaged or faulty aortic valve.
With the TAVR procedure, doctors insert a small tube called a catheter into the femoral artery, or through the chest, to replace the aortic valve with a new artificial valve.
Benefits of TAVR include no chest incision, sternotomy (opening of the chest cavity) or other requirements of traditional open-heart surgery. Shortened recovery times with TAVR also mean patients can come home sooner from the hospital.
Severe aortic stenosis may produce a variety of symptoms in patients including:
- Shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Extreme fatigue
- Dizziness or fainting
- Heart palpitations (sensation that the heart is racing)
Without proper care, severe aortic stenosis can ultimately result in congestive heart failure, and may even be fatal if untreated.
During a transcatheter aortic valve replacement procedure to treat severe aortic stenosis at Scripps, doctors insert a catheter into the patient’s femoral artery through the groin, or directly into the chest, and navigate through arteries to the heart with the aid of advanced imaging.
Once cardiologists position the new valve inside the faulty aortic valve, they inflate a tiny balloon on the catheter to expand the new valve to its full size and lock it in place. The new valve has three leaflets (flaps) similar to the heart’s original valve. These leaflets begin working immediately — opening and closing — to restore healthy blood flow to body and vital organs.
Scripps is at the forefront of TAVR advancements and actively participating in global clinical trials for next-generation treatments and different patient populations.
An estimated 30 percent of patients with severe aortic stenosis are not candidates for traditional open-heart surgery, which makes TAVR a possible option for them to consider, in consultation with their physician.
Aortic valve stenosis can be due to congenital heart defects or can develop as a result of illnesses such as rheumatic fever. Calcium deposits from elevated levels of cholesterol may also cause it by forming around the aortic valve. It can also be caused by certain medications or as a result of radiation therapy treatments.
For many adults, aortic stenosis progresses with age. Mild cases may have limited to no symptoms. But over time, the heart valve may continue to deteriorate, which can increase or intensify symptoms such as chest pain, dizziness and fatigue. Progressive stages of aortic stenosis may also trigger additional heart problems such as high blood pressure and congestive heart failure.
Identifying severe aortic stenosis is key to effective long-term symptom management and treatment.
As with any medical procedure, TAVR is not right for everyone. Many of the risks associated with TAVR are similar to those of other interventional cardiology procedures. If you have certain pre-existing medical conditions you may not be a candidate for TAVR. These conditions include:
- Bleeding problems or inability to take anti-clotting medications
- Pre-existing kidney disease
- Other heart valve disease
Your heart physician will discuss all of your treatment options to see if TAVR is right for you in the treatment of aortic stenosis.