Samaritan Heart Center’s new transcatheter heart valve program makes life-saving heart surgery available to even more patients in our region. Patients with severe aortic stenosis may now be candidates for transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR.
"Aortic stenosis is an increasingly common and serious valve disease in which the aortic valve becomes narrow, and blood is not adequately pumped through the heart,” said Cardiologist Edward Toggart, MD. “The most common cause is the buildup of calcium deposits on the valve leaflets. It is most often diagnosed in older people and usually does not start causing symptoms until ages 70 or 80."
A person with aortic stenosis may feel chest pain, shortness of breath, dizziness or faint during activities. They may feel heart palpitations and their doctor may hear a heart murmur through a stethoscope. Left untreated, severe aortic stenosis can lead to heart failure and death.
In the past, an open- heart procedure was the only option for severe aortic stenosis requiring surgery. The TAVR procedure is a minimally invasive alternative and is considered safer for many older patients for whom a major surgery could be prohibitively risky.
"A TAVR procedure is done using a long, thin, hollow tube, called a catheter, which is usually inserted through a blood vessel in the groin,” said Cardiac Surgeon Edward Bender, MD. “Using high-tech imaging equipment, we guide the catheter, which carries a replacement valve to your heart’s damaged aortic valve, where the replacement valve is expanded."
In a TAVR procedure, the patient can be under less anesthetic and the recovery time is much faster - patients are usually up and about the next day, and on their way home within three days.
"A patient who has had the TAVR procedure often starts feeling better immediately, because they now have a working aortic valve,” said Dr. Bender. “ They’ll likely be breathing normally and have more energy for everyday activities."
Not every severe aortic stenosis patient is an appropriate candidate for TAVR. For example, a patient must have a valve with three leaflets (tricuspid) rather than one with two leaflets (bicuspid). Endocarditis (infection of the heart) would disqualify a patient for TAVR.
But for many older patients with severe, symptomatic aortic stenosis, TAVR can be a game changer,” said Dr. Toggart. “We are so happy we are able to offer this minimally invasive procedure to patients who, in the past, would have been out of options."
Samaritan Heart Center provides a wide range of advanced cardiology and cardiac surgery services, with clinics in Albany, Corvallis, Lebanon, Lincoln City and Newport, and also serves patients from Eugene, Salem and neighboring areas. For more information, visit samhealth.org/Heart or call 888-263- 6092.