Surgeon

UPMC Altoona patients who need a heart valve replacement have an exciting alternative to open-heart surgery.

UPMC Altoona now offers an advanced, minimally invasive heart procedure called transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR). Instead of making a large incision in the chest, doctors insert a new valve through a small incision in the groin. A catheter placed into an artery in the leg acts as a conduit for the new valve, which is located inside a balloon. Then the doctors thread the catheter through the vein toward the heart. When the catheter reaches the site of the diseased valve, the balloon is inflated and the new valve is placed. It begins functioning immediately, restoring blood flow to the heart.

Unlike open-heart surgery, the TAVR procedure is performed in the hospital’s cardiac catheterization lab. During a TAVR procedure, the heart is never stopped. George Jabbour, MD, an interventional cardiologist, and director of the UPMC Altoona Cath Lab, began using the new procedure in July.

Although TAVR is performed without opening the chest, it is done under anesthesia. Most patients spend one to two days in the hospital. Compared to an open heart procedure, TAVR benefits include less anesthesia, a shorter hospital stay, and a faster recovery, says Dr. Jabbour.

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TAVR is recommended for patients with severe aortic stenosis or a failing aortic valve. These conditions cause significant narrowing of the aortic valve opening, which can restrict blood flow out of the heart and force the heart to work harder to move blood throughout the body. Left untreated, a failing aortic valve can cause shortness of breath, chest pain or tightness, congestive heart failure, and sudden cardiac death.

To learn more about the TAVR procedure or to schedule an appointment with a cardiologist, contact the UPMC Altoona Heart and Vascular Institute at 814-949-9095.

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.