COLLAPSIBLE HEART VALVE can eliminate open-heart surgery
Transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR, a minimally invasive method for replacing diseased aortic valves, has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. More than 50 TAVR procedures have already been performed at GW Hospital. In this Ask the Doctor, Farzad Najam, MD, Director of Cardiac Surgery, along with the newest member of the surgical team, Elizabeth Pocock, MD, Assistant Professor of Surgery, discuss TAVR and its benefits.
What is TAVR and what is it used to treat?
TAVR is a way to replace diseased valves in the aorta (the main artery that serves the heart), without performing invasive open-heart surgery. It is used to treat severe aortic stenosis, a buildup of calcium that can harden the valve and make it inflexible. When this happens, the valve doesn’t open properly and blood flow to the aorta can be blocked. If left untreated, the heart is forced to work harder and can cause serious problems such as heart failure and cardiac arrest.
Who is a candidate for TAVR?
The patients best suited for this procedure are those who have medical conditions that make open-heart surgery extremely high risk or impossible.
How is the procedure performed?
TAVR involves a collapsible valve that’s expanded at the site of the old valve and takes over regulating blood flow. The valve is inserted using minimally invasive surgery and a catheter. The catheter is either threaded through the femoral artery in the groin or through a very small incision in the chest. These entry methods can eliminate the need to surgically open the chest with a large incision at the breastbone, which is how traditional valve replacements are performed.
How does this procedure benefit patients?
Many patients with severe aortic stenosis are advanced in age and have other medical conditions. Since surgery is usually the most effective treatment for aortic stenosis, a less invasive and safer alternative to surgical valve replacement is a big step forward. The potential benefits of minimally invasive surgery include less pain, a shorter hospital stay and shorter recovery time.
Individual results may vary. There are risks associated with any surgical procedure. Talk with your doctor about these risks to find out if minimally invasive surgery is right for you.