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Cardiothoracic Surgery: Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR)

Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) is one of the most advanced heart valve replacement options for patients with aortic stenosis. Here, University of Florida surgeons team with cardiologists and interventional cardiologists to determine the procedures best suited to lengthen and improve the quality of a patient’s life in the safest way.

Heart valve replacements are often done with the traditional sternotomy method, often called open heart surgery, which requires opening the chest cavity.

TAVR is performed when traditional surgery is not a good option, and uses small incisions to reach the heart by entering the femoral artery in the groin (femoral approach) or, minimally invasively, by accessing a large artery with an incision between the ribs (transapical approach). Your UF Health cardiovascular surgeon can determine which option is best for you.

UF Health Jacksonville is one of only a few hospitals in the region to offer TAVR, and uses the most advanced surgical equipment and replacement valves available. Patients with aortic stenosis from throughout the southeastern United States seek our services for second opinions and multiple treatment options.

What Is Aortic Stenosis?

The heart’s left ventricle is the largest of the heart’s four chambers and pumps oxygenated blood to most of the human body. Aortic stenosis is a severe narrowing of the aortic valve, where blood exits the left ventricle. This narrowing is a progressive, life-threatening condition that affects up to seven percent of Americans over age 65. Once symptoms appear — such as chest pain, shortness of breath, fatigue or heart murmurs — you need to be diagnosed and treated right away to help manage the condition. The TAVR procedure gives hope to people who may not have thought they could have a higher quality of life and more time with loved ones.

Benefits of TAVR

The TAVR procedure gives high- or greater-risk surgical patients a chance they didn't have before. Thousands of individuals suffering from aortic stenosis are now candidates for a healthier heart and can enjoy an easier path to recovery.

The advanced nature of TAVR surgeries performed at UF Health Jacksonville provide a number of benefits, including:

  • New valve immediately functions properly
  • Fewer risks than open-heart surgery
  • Lower risk of infection
  • Less trauma to the chest and heart muscle tissue
  • Shorter hospital stay (usually three to five days)
  • Faster recovery

What to Expect During TAVR Surgery

During TAVR, your UF Health surgeon uses state-of-the-art surgical and imaging equipment to guide and place a new valve in the compromised aortic valve opening. In all, surgery takes one to two hours, depending on the patient and other factors such as existing stents, heart damage, compromised health or obesity.

During a TAVR procedure, you should expect the following:

  1. You are placed under anesthesia
  2. An incision either between your ribs or in your femoral artery is made, and a short narrow tube, called a sheath, is inserted
  3. A catheter, a long narrow tube with a balloon on its tip, is inserted in the sheath and guided to your narrow aortic valve; the balloon is inflated, opening the valve in preparation of receiving the new valve; the balloon is deflated and removed
  4. Your new valve is then compressed and placed on a balloon that will carry it to the diseased aortic valve
  5. The balloon carrying the valve is inflated with liquid, and the valve is secured in place before the balloon is deflated and removed
  6. Your surgeon will ensure the valve is working properly before removing the sheath and closing the incision

Recovering from TAVR

Recovery from TAVR is generally much easier and faster than traditional valve replacement surgery. However, you should still expect to take some downtime from your normal activities and work. Your recovery plan will be tailored to your situation, but you can generally expect:

  • A prescription for medicine to help control the pain so you can relax and heal more effectively
  • A prescription medicine to prevent blood clots from forming in your replacement valve. You may need to take it for about six months after the TAVR procedure
  • Instructions on how to care for your incision site, such as how to dress and cover the wound and how to bathe while it heals
  • To follow a heart-healthy diet that includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, low-fat dairy and whole grains. You may need to avoid foods that are high in salt, cholesterol and saturated fats
  • To attend regular cardiovascular rehabilitation once you are ready to return to physical activity

Your surgeon will talk to you about your recovery and any restrictions before you leave the hospital.

Why Choose UF Health for the TAVR Procedure?

We are the region’s leaders in minimally invasive cardiothoracic surgery such as TAVR, and have pioneered many of the techniques and procedures that have become the standard of care in hospitals throughout the country.

The cardiologists and surgeons at the UF Health Jacksonville Cardiovascular Center work closely together as your care team. Each patient receives a custom treatment plan designed for optimal outcomes. As part of the leading academic medical center in the Southeast, the UF Health Jacksonville Cardiovascular Center offers more treatment options than other facilities and performs hundreds of procedures a year. Procedures like TAVR are done almost every week with a prime focus on benefiting our patients while finding ways to improve precision and raising the bar in cardiothoracic surgery.

As a patient at UF Health Jacksonville, you benefit from academic, leading-edge research and treatments. As advanced as cardiovascular care has become, we are always looking at what comes next.