Doctor checking patient's heart

Aortic stenosis is a common heart valve disorder that affects about five to eight percent of people over age 65. In the past, open heart surgery was the only way to treat the condition. But, now, many people can undergo a minimally invasive alternative — transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR).

Never Miss a Beat!

Get Healthy Tips Sent to Your Phone!

Message and data rates may apply. Text the word STOP to opt out and HELP for help. Click here to view the privacy and terms.

What Is Aortic Stenosis?

Aortic stenosis is a condition in which calcium builds up in the aortic valve. Because of the buildup, the valve cannot open as much as it needs to for adequate blood flow. Your heart then has to work harder to pump enough blood throughout your body. Over time, your heart can weaken and, eventually, lead to heart failure.

Aortic stenosis is the most prevalent form of heart disease among people over age 65, according to the UPMC Center for Transcatheter Aortic Valve Therapy.

Symptoms of the condition include shortness of breath, chest tightness, and passing out. Without treatment, it can lead to death.

TAVR for Aortic Stenosis

TAVR is a minimally invasive procedure to replace the damaged aortic valve. A surgeon and interventional cardiologist perform the procedure. The surgeon reaches the heart through the a blood vessel in the groin. The doctor passes a new valve through the blood vessel and places it in the old, damaged one.

“That old valve is calcified…and that acts as an anchor to keep our valve in position,” says Quentin Orlando, DO, a cardiologist with UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute. “Once ready, we take a picture as we pace the heart very rapidly so that allows us to be precise in our implant. We inflate a balloon, push the old valve out of the way, and the new valve takes over immediately once its deployed.” 

This allows the blood to flow normally through the valve. The entire procedure lasts about an hour, and most people can go home the next day. 

Compared to open heart surgery, people typically feel better faster with TAVR. 

This allows the blood to flow normally through the valve. The entire procedure lasts about an hour, and most people can go home the next day.

Compared to open heart surgery, people typically feel better more quickly with TAVR.

TAVR is an option for people with severe aortic stenosis causing symptoms and those at higher risk of complications from open heart surgery. The procedure may be recommended for people in their 60s and older. For people in their 40s and 50s with aortic stenosis, mechanical aortic valve may be a better option. The mechanical valve requires open heart surgery, but it lasts decades, providing a long-term treatment solution.

“It offers patients an opportunity to get their valve fixed so-to-speak, and patients are actually going home in a very brief period of time and doing quite well,” says Orlando, adding that both patients in their 80s and 90s considered too high risk for open heart surgery and younger patients can benefit from the less-invasive TAVR procedure.  

UPMC has more than a decade of experience performing TAVR for aortic stenosis. Our experts have performed more than 1,600 procedures.

Getting timely treatment for aortic stenosis or other heart problems saves lives. And minimally invasive procedures, such as TAVR, reduce the time you spend in the hospital. Your doctor can advise you on the best course of action during this time.

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.