Aortic valve stenosis occurs when the heart's aortic valve narrows, most frequently as a result of calcium deposits in the valve tissue. This narrowing prevents the valve from opening fully, which obstructs blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body. It can be a progressive, life-threatening condition that affects up to 7% of Americans over age 65. 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.
What is transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR)?
TAVR is a minimally invasive procedure that is sometimes used to replace a diseased aortic valve if a patient has aortic stenosis.
Symptoms of aortic valve stenosis:
- Chest pain
- Difficulty exercising or other physical activity
- Fainting (syncopal) episodes
- Heart murmur
- Shortness of breath, fatigue
- Swelling in the legs or feet
TAVR procedure: Who qualifies?
TAVR may be an option for most patients with aortic valve stenosis. TAVR may also be the only treatment option in patients who cannot undergo open-heart surgery.
The decision to treat aortic stenosis with TAVR is made after consultation with our multidisciplinary team of heart specialists who work with patients to determine the best treatment option. The UF Health Cardiovascular Center multidisciplinary TAVR team represents a strong partnership including cardiothoracic surgeons, interventional cardiologists and cardiovascular imaging experts, offering patients the highest level of expertise and care.
Benefits of the TAVR procedure:
- Improved survival
- Improved symptoms - new valve immediately functions properly
- Less invasive and faster recovery than open-heart surgery
- Lower risk of infection
- Reduced hospital admission for heart failure
- Short hospital stay (usually two to five days)
TAVR procedure: What to expect
- At UF Health Jacksonville, the procedure is performed by a team of interventional cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons specialized on structural heart disease procedures. On average, the TAVR procedure takes about one to two hours to be performed and without the need of general anesthesia in most patients.
- Unlike traditional aortic valve replacement through open-heart surgery, which involves surgically opening the chest to replace a patient's aortic valve while on a heart-lung pump machine, the minimally invasive TAVR is typically done through a small incision in the groin.
- During the TAVR procedure, the catheter, which houses the new aortic valve, is inserted into the femoral artery in the groin and placed inside the old diseased aortic valve. The new TAVR valve is implanted with X-ray and ultrasound guidance, and starts functioning immediately. After the new valve is implanted, the catheters are removed from the body and the small skin incision is stitched.
TAVR procedure: Recovery
You should expect to stay in the hospital for one to three nights following this procedure. The majority of patients are able to perform regular activities within a few days. After your TAVR procedure, you will be referred to the outpatient cardiac rehabilitation program.
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, which you may need to take for about six months after the 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 Jacksonville?
We are the region’s leaders in minimally invasive cardiac 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.