While open-chest surgery to replace the aortic valve is the standard treatment for severe symptomatic aortic stenosis, there are some patients who are not eligible for surgery or considered at high risk for surgery. These patients may be candidates for a therapy called transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR or TAVI), which allows the U of U Heart Valve Clinic team to replace a diseased aortic heart valve without open-chest surgery. TAVR enables the placement of a balloon-expandable heart valve into the body with a tube-based delivery system called a catheter. This tube-based system allows the valve to be inserted through an incision in the leg and into an artery (transfemoral procedure) or through an incision between the ribs and then through the bottom end of the heart called the apex (transapical procedure). The transapical procedure is only available to certain high-risk patients who are not candidates for the transfemoral procedure because they do not have appropriate access through their leg artery.
The U of U Heart Valve Clinic team will conduct a comprehensive evaluation to determine whether the TAVR procedure is an appropriate therapeutic option. In certain cases, TAVR may not be an option because of co-existing medical conditions or disease processes that would prevent the patient from experiencing the expected treatment benefit or because the risks outweigh the benefits. For those who are candidates for TAVR, this therapy may provide relief from the often debilitating symptoms associated with severe symptomatic native aortic valve stenosis.
About Severe Aortic Stenosis
In elderly patients, severe symptomatic aortic stenosis is often caused by the build-up of calcium (mineral deposits) on the aortic valve's leaflets (flaps of tissue that open and close to regulate the one-way flow of blood through the aortic valve). This build-up of calcium on the leaflets impairs the aortic valve's ability to fully open and close. As a result, the narrowed valve allows less oxygen-rich blood to flow from the lungs to the brain and rest of the body which may cause symptoms like severe shortness of breath and extreme fatigue.
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