(KUTV) Overtime, calcium builds up in the heart’s aortic valve, causing it to become tight and narrow. When this happens it’s called aortic stenosis.
“It limits the pumping of blood outward and often leads to chest pain, shortness of breath, even blackout spells in many of our patients,” explains Dr. Trey O’Neal, an Interventional Cardiologist at Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute.
Valve replacement is necessary for many patients with aortic stenosis and is often done with a minimally invasive procedure called TAVR. This procedure demonstrates the evolution of aortic valve replacements and is considered one of the most important advancements in the history of treating heart disease. Just last month, Intermountain Medical Center performed their 1,000th TAVR.
Here’s how it works:
Doctors insert a large IV in a patient’s leg and are able to thread both a balloon and the replacement valve all the way to the heart. Then when it reaches the aortic valve, doctors inflate the balloon - forcing the valve to expand. They will then deflate the balloon and pull it out – leaving the replacement valve in place.
Compared to traditional surgery, TAVR is typically easier on patients and the average length of stay in the hospital is only two days.
“We’ve shown that we reduce strokes. We also reduce death during valve replacement with the TAVR procedure,” says Dr. O’Neal.
TAVR is currently only used in high-risk and medium-risk patients. Trials are currently underway and are testing if the procedure is also successful with low-risk patients.