It’s one of the most exciting procedures in cardiology, with more than 8,000 TAVR operations performed in the US in the past year alone.
“We were having TAVR clinic on two half-days a month, but we’re now having to open up more slots. There’s more people at least being investigated for it,” says Dr. Brian Hummel, cardiothoracic surgeon with the medical staff of Lee Memorial Health System.
The transcatheter aortic valve replacement procedure is a non-surgical way to put a new heart valve in patients with severe aortic stenosis, a disabling condition where the valve stiffens and blood flow is disrupted.
“If you have severe aortic stenosis the mortality in the first two year is about 50% if it’s not treated. And that’s how TAVR has shown reduced mortality in very sick patients that previously haven’t been able to be operated on,” says Dr. Steven Priest, cardiologist on the medical staff of with Lee Memorial Health System.
Instead of undergoing open heart surgery to replace the faulty valve, very sick patients may opt for the less invasive option. A catheter equipped with a balloon and expandable valve is threaded through the groin into the heart. Another approach is putting the catheter directly into the chest.
“Being able to approach it through the chest wall has opened it up to patients who before were excluded because of severe vascular disease and obstruction in the valves that wouldn’t allow these big catheters to be placed up their arteries,” says Dr. Hummel.
The non-surgical approach takes a major operation and downsizes it, shrinking recovery time in the process.
“We’ve had some amazing patients which they haven’t been able to do much activity at all prior to the procedure and now one or two of them are out playing golf,” says Dr. Priest.