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Chest pain

What is a TAVR Procedure?

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TAVR stands for Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement and is a minimally invasive heart valve replacement procedure. This surgery works to improve the function of the aortic valve, which controls blood flow from your heart to the rest of your body. The aortic valve does this by opening and closing leaflets within the valve. When these leaflets become stiff, they have trouble opening fully and cause the valve to narrow, which is known as aortic stenosis. When the aortic valve cannot open correctly, blood flow from the heart to the body is reduced.

You can imagine this valve like a garden hose with an adjustable nozzle that controls the hose’s spray. When you have the stream on your hose nozzle set on a full, water flows easily through the hose. However, when you adjust the nozzle to a jet setting, a much smaller stream of water is produced, at a much higher pressure. This increased pressure represents the pressure on your heart, which is working harder to pump blood through the smaller valve opening. All this extra strain on your heart can lead to chest pain, loss of consciousness, heart failure or even sudden death.

Aortic stenosis is usually caused by a build-up of calcium on the valve leaflets, especially in older adults, but it can also be a result of a birth defect or even inflammation due to radiation therapy.

People who are experiencing aortic stenosis may have the following symptoms:

  • Heart murmur
  • Chest pain
  • Feeling faint
  • Shortness of breath
  • Fatigue
  • Heart palpitations

The TAVR procedure helps to minimize these symptoms while decreasing the stress on the heart. TAVR is completed by entering the largest artery in the groin or by making a small incision on the chest and entering through the largest chest artery. During the procedure, a fully collapsible replacement valve is inserted into the old aortic valve through a catheter. When the valve is expanded, it pushes the old valve leaflets out of the way and allows for improved blood flow. Because the TAVR procedure is not an open-heart surgery it can mean a shorter hospital stay and may be a good option for people who are at an increased risk for complications with traditional open-heart surgery.

You may be interested in TAVR if you fall into any of the following categories:

  • Increased age
  • Weakened heart
  • Previous heart surgeries
  • History of stroke
  • COPD
  • Liver disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Diabetes

If you, or a loved one, are experiencing any of the above symptoms related to aortic stenosis or have questions about the TAVR procedure, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor or seek care from a cardiologist.

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