For years, open heart surgery and medicines were the only options available to treat severe aortic stenosis — a debilitating condition that involves the narrowing of the heart’s aortic valve. As a result, the heart must work harder to push blood through the valve. And, less oxygen-rich blood flows to the rest of your body.

Since the introduction of the transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) procedure in 2011, people living with aortic stenosis have a minimally invasive alternative to open heart surgery. In the last eight years, doctors at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute have performed a TAVR to treat more than 1,400 people with aortic stenosis or a failing surgical aortic valve replacement.

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What Is TAVR?

TAVR is recommended for people who have severe aortic stenosis or have a failing aortic valve from a prior surgical replacement. Left untreated, a failing aortic valve can cause shortness of breath, chest pain or tightness, congestive heart failure, and sudden cardiac death.

If you’re interested in TAVR, you’ll first meet with a heart valve team. At UPMC, our cardiologists, surgeons, and advanced practice providers will assess your condition and review your medical history to determine if the procedure is right for you.

Although TAVR is performed without opening the chest, it is done under anesthesia. During the procedure, the highly experienced care team will:

  • Insert a catheter through an artery in your groin or under the collarbone.
  • Use the catheter, along with echocardiography and fluoroscopy—a moving x-ray imaging tool—to guide the replacement valve through the artery to your heart and into the center of the aortic valve.
  • Open the new valve within the old valve to restore proper blood flow.

After the procedure, most patients spend one to two days in the hospital.

What Are the Benefits of TAVR?

TAVR should improve quality of life by relieving symptoms related to aortic stenosis. Other benefits of the less invasive TAVR procedure may include:

  • Less anesthesia.
  • Shorter length of hospital stay.
  • Faster recovery (compared to open heart surgery).

Who Is a Good Candidate for TAVR?

TAVR might be a good option to consider if:

  • You have an increased risk of medical complications from open heart surgery.
  • You have severe, symptomatic aortic stenosis.
  • The replacement aortic valve inserted during a prior open heart surgery is failing.

UPMC was the first in the region to establish a dedicated aortic valve center and perform TAVR.

To learn more about aortic stenosis treatment options, visit the UPMC Center for Transcatheter Aortic Valve Therapies or call 412-647-1621.

About Heart and Vascular Institute

The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute ranks among the best in the United States for complete cardiovascular care. U.S. News & World Report lists UPMC Presbyterian Shadyside as one of the top hospitals nationally for cardiology and heart surgery. We treat all manners of heart and vein conditions, from the common to the most complex. We are creating new medical devices and cutting-edge treatments that may not be available at other hospitals. We also offer screenings, free clinics, and education events in the community.