What you can expect
Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) involves replacing your damaged aortic valve with one made from cow or pig heart tissue, also called a biological tissue valve. In some cases, a TAVR biological tissue valve may be placed into an existing biological tissue valve that is no longer working.
Before the procedure
You'll be evaluated to make sure you don't have any risk factors that may affect you during the TAVR procedure.
You may be given a medication to reduce the risk of infection prior to your procedure.
During the procedure
You will receive sedation or general anesthesia during the TAVR procedure. A treatment team member will give you medication through an IV to prevent blood clots.
Your treatment team will monitor your blood pressure, heart function and rhythm, and watch for any changes, which can be managed with treatments as needed during the procedure.
To perform TAVR, the doctor may access your heart through a blood vessel in your leg or through a tiny incision in your chest. The doctor may sometimes use other approaches to access your heart. A hollow tube (catheter) is inserted through the access point. Your doctor uses advanced imaging techniques to guide the catheter through your blood vessels, to your heart and into your aortic valve.
Once the new valve is positioned, a balloon on the catheter's tip is inflated to expand the replacement valve into the appropriate position. Some valves can expand without the use of a balloon.
When your doctor is certain the valve is securely in place, the catheter is removed.
After the procedure
You may spend the night in the intensive care unit for monitoring after your procedure. Generally you'll spend about two to five days recovering in the hospital.
You'll need regular follow-up appointments with your doctor after TAVR. Let your doctor know if you have any new or worsening signs or symptoms.
You may need to take certain medications after your procedure. For example, you'll need to take blood-thinning medications to prevent future blood clots. Your doctor will discuss with you how long you may need to take these medications. Always take your medications as prescribed.
Artificial heart valves, including a transcatheter aortic valve, can become infected with bacteria. Most bacteria that cause heart valve infections come from the bacteria in the mouth. Excellent dental hygiene, including routine dental cleanings, can help prevent these infections. Your doctor will recommend that you take medications before certain dental procedures to prevent infections.
Your doctor may recommend that you make healthy lifestyle changes, such as eating a heart-healthy diet, exercising regularly, maintaining a healthy weight and avoiding smoking.