Doctor checking patient's heart

For years, open heart surgery and medicines were the only options to treat severe aortic stenosis, a debilitating condition that involves the narrowing of the heart’s aortic valve. In other words, this condition causes the aortic valve to not open wide enough, and therefore the heart must work harder to push blood through the valve. In addition, aortic stenosis causes less oxygen-rich blood to flow 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 10 years, doctors at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute have performed a TAVR to treat more than 2,000 people with aortic stenosis or a failing surgical aortic valve replacement.

“The multidisciplinary team at UPMC’s Center for Heart Valve Disease is privileged to care for our patients with structural heart disease and offer the latest in transcatheter based therapies including TAVR,” says Lisa Henry, DNP, CRNP.

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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 stays
  • Faster recovery (compared to open heart surgery)

“TAVR has been a revolutionary procedure to help treat our patients with aortic stenosis,” says Ibrahim Sultan, MD, surgical director of the UPMC Center for Heart Valve Disease. “While we continue to be proud of being one of the highest volume centers in the country, our primary goal is to always take care of our patients by performing high quality procedures with strong outcomes.”

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 the TAVR procedure.

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

Editor's Note: This article was originally published on , and was last reviewed on .

About Heart and Vascular Institute

The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute has long been a leader in cardiovascular care, with a rich history in clinical research and innovation. As one of the first heart transplant centers in the country and as the developer of one of the first heart-assist devices, UPMC has contributed to advancing the field of cardiovascular medicine. We strive to provide the most advanced, cutting-edge care for our patients, treating both common and complex conditions. We also offer services that seek to improve the health of our communities, including heart screenings, free clinics, and heart health education. Find an expert near you.