Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) is a minimally invasive procedure to replace the aortic valve in people with aortic valve stenosis.
Aortic valve stenosis — or aortic stenosis — occurs when the heart's aortic valve thickens and calcifies, preventing the valve from opening fully, which limits blood flow from your heart to the rest of your body. Aortic stenosis can cause chest pain, fainting, fatigue, leg swelling and shortness of breath. It may also lead to heart failure and sudden cardiac death.
Your Virginia Heart Care Team will give you instructions on how to prepare for your transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) procedure. Talk to your doctor if you have any questions about the procedure.
Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) involves replacing your damaged aortic valve with one made from cow or pig heart tissue, also called a bioprosthetic tissue valve. You will receive sedation or general anesthesia during the TAVR procedure. Your treatment team will monitor your blood pressure, heart function and rhythm, and watch for any changes, which can be managed with treatments as needed during the procedure.
To perform TAVR the doctor will usually access your heart through a blood vessel in your leg, although he or she may sometimes use other approaches.. A hollow tube (catheter) is inserted through the access point. Your doctor uses advanced imaging techniques to guide the catheter through your blood vessels, to your heart and into your aortic valve.
Once the new valve is positioned, a balloon on the catheter's tip is inflated to expand the replacement valve into the appropriate position. Some valves can expand without the use of a balloon.
When your doctor is certain the valve is securely in place, the catheter is removed.
Unlike traditional valve replacement surgery, TAVR (transcatheter aortic valve replacement) does not involve a large surgical incision through the breastbone. Recovery from catheter-based heart procedures is much different than from open heart surgery.
It is common to have pain at the catheter insertion site (often in the leg) for several days following a TAVR. Pain tends to gradually resolve as you recover and heal. Consult with your doctor before you take pain medication.
In most cases, doctors encourage walking for short periods after TAVR. Gradually, you’ll add activities and intensity over a month or so. Follow all instructions for climbing stairs, lifting things, and resting. Doing too much too fast can cause problems. Ask your doctor when it’s safe to return to daily activities, driving, work, sex, and leisure activities. It may take several weeks to months before you get back to all of your regular activities, depending on your overall health and heart health.