Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement

Doctor wearing a mask

Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) is a minimally invasive procedure that replaces a damaged valve with a man-made valve in patients with severe aortic stenosis. This procedure is also referred to as transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI).

Aortic valve stenosis is a type of heart valve disease that narrows the aortic valve and can be treated with a heart valve replacement procedure, such as TAVR. As the heart works harder to pump blood, the risk of heart failure and death increases. A heart valve replacement or aortic valve implantation lowers this risk by improving blood flow and decreasing heart strain.

Heart valve specialists at the Allegheny Health Network (AHN) Cardiovascular Institute are nationally recognized for their expertise in performing transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR). We perform a large number of TAVR procedures every year.

TAVR vs. surgical aortic valve replacement (SAVR)

Surgical aortic valve replacement (SAVR) is traditional, open-heart surgery. This is the standard approach to replacing a diseased heart valve. Some people with heart valve disease have other health issues that make open-heart surgery too risky. Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) is a minimally invasive aortic valve replacement procedure, which can be done through the femoral artery in the leg (transfemoral), or a small incision in the chest (transapical), helping patients with heart disease who are at a high risk.

What is the TAVR procedure?

To perform the TAVR procedure, your doctor will:

  1. Thread a catheter (long, thin tube) through the femoral artery in the leg until it reaches the heart.
  2. Insert an expandable replacement valve through the catheter to the heart.
  3. Use a small incision in the chest to help place the replacement valve.
  4. Expand the replacement valve, which pushes the diseased valve leaflets out of the way.

Benefits of TAVR surgery

Your physician will assess your personal situation to determine if TAVR is right for you. Benefits of TAVR include:

  • Smaller chest incisions or no incision at all.
  • No cutting of the breastbone or opening of the ribcage.
  • No need for a heart-lung bypass machine.
  • Less pain and scarring.
  • Faster recovery time.
  • Reduced risk of infection.

What to expect

Before your doctor begins the procedure, a specialist will insert an IV into your hand or forearm. You may be given the option of taking a sedative to help you relax.