Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR)

GERMANTOWN, Tenn. – Open heart surgery. The words themselves conjure up some pretty scary thoughts. A major operation. Cutting open the rib cage. Months of recovery time. But sometimes it’s the path that’s required for a life-saving procedure needed by a patient.

More and more, doctors are replacing these major surgeries with a tiny incision and a procedure performed entirely through a tube called a catheter. This has been done for some time in the orthopedic world, but now it’s being used to help people with a very serious heart condition.

Aortic valve stenosis is when the valve to the heart’s aorta, the biggest artery in the body, narrows. That forces the heart to work harder and over time, it can cause it to weaken and lead to even more serious heart problems.

See how it happens.

People who suffer from aortic stenosis can suffer from any of these symptoms:

  • Breathlessness
  • Chest pain (angina), pressure or tightness
  • Fainting, also called syncope
  • Decline in activity level or reduced ability to do normal activities requiring mild exertion

Enter a new hope, Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement, or TAVR for short.

A surgeon inserts a catheter tube from the patient’s groin area. It carries a stent (see below) all the way to the aortic valve. Once it’s in place, the doctor expands it and the value is instantly repaired. There’s no long recovery time in the hospital, no major surgery risks, it’s done.

The Stern Cardiovascular Center is one of few places in the Memphis area performing TAVR regularly. Stern’s Dr. Basil Paulus performs the surgery frequently. He says the change in lifestyle for TAVR patients after having the procedure is remarkable. See Dr. Paulus' interview.

Dr. Paulus cautions that the surgery isn’t right for everyone with aortic stenosis. If you think you’re a candidate, you should talk to your doctor about it.

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