TAVI is an alternative for open heart surgery
Dr. Ambrosia is an interventional cardiologist at Banner Heart Hospital. For more information on this topic, talk with your doctor.
Question: My father-in-law has a severe problem with his aortic valve. A heart surgeon has told him due to his age and his illness, he is not a candidate for open heart surgery to repair the valve. Are there other options?
Answer: The aortic valve is the valve that opens to allow blood to leave the heart and closes to keep blood from rushing back into it. Over time, the valve may narrow due to calcium build-up and the heart has to work harder to pump blood to the body. This weakens the heart muscle over time, causing heart failure.
Often, the narrowing of the aortic valve occurs so slowly that symptoms of heart failure do not develop until patients are very elderly. When patients reach this stage, they may have other medical conditions that make open heart surgery more complicated and risky. However, thanks to major medical advancements in recent years, a nonsurgical option called transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI) is available for these patients.
In TAVI, an artificial heart valve is placed over the patient’s narrowed heart valve using a catheter directed either through a large artery in the leg or through the tip of the heart by a small incision in the chest. Safely performing a TAVI requires a heart surgeon and cardiologist working together, along with hospital staff in both the operating room and the cardiac catheterization lab.
The TAVI procedure was developed in Europe and was approved for use in the United States in 2011. Soon, this technology will be further refined and delivered through smaller catheters, making it an option for an even broader population of patients. Like any procedure, there are potential risks and complications, but the TAVI procedure enables physicians to repair damaged heart valves in patients not previously eligible for treatment, helping them live longer lives with fewer symptoms.