If you’re researching transcatheter aortic valve replacement, you’ve probably already been diagnosed with a condition called aortic stenosis, and you likely have many questions.
A quick refresher on the basics
Your heart, as you probably already know, has four chambers. Two of them, called the atria, receive blood coming into the heart, and the other two, the ventricles, pump the blood out of the heart. There are four heart valves to prevent the backflow of blood.
The superior vena cava and the inferior vena cava are the two blood vessels that bring deoxygenated blood to your heart. The aorta takes oxygen-rich blood from your heart to supply the oxygen to heart muscle itself and the rest of the body.
When you have aortic stenosis, the opening of the valve that leads from the left ventricle into the aorta is narrowed. Because the opening is too small, your blood can’t flow from your heart to your body as it should thus reducing blood flow and in turn oxygen to the whole body.
Symptoms of aortic stenosis
First, it’s important to understand that you may have aortic stenosis and not have any symptoms at all. However, as the opening keeps narrowing, you’re more likely to experience symptoms including:
- Becoming breathless easily
- Pressure, tightness, or pain in your chest
- Dizziness or even fainting spells
- Feeling like your heart is pounding, or beating too hard
- Heart palpitations
- Feeling tired or unenergetic
- A heart murmur
Left untreated, aortic stenosis can ultimately lead to heart failure and death. Survival rates of untreated aortic stenosis are ~50% at 1-2 years. Aortic stenosis kills more people than many of the common cancers that have spread to the other parts of the body. That’s why it’s important to consider your options if you’ve been diagnosed with aortic stenosis.
There are multiple treatment options for aortic stenosis, and the one that’s right for you depends on many factors. Two of the most common are surgical aortic valve replacement (SAVR) and transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), which is sometimes called transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI).
SAVR is a traditional type of surgery, where your chest is cracked opened and the faulty aortic valve is removed and replaced. TAVR is a newer procedure that offers numerous benefits for some patients.
During TAVR, Dr. Bokhari makes a small incision into one of your blood vessels, mostly in the groin area, instead of doing traditional open heart surgery. He then uses specialized instruments to place a new valve in the opening between your left ventricle and aorta. The new valve opens, pushing the old one to the side and correctly regulates the blood flow from your heart to the rest of your body restoring its oxygenation.
The smaller incision means TAVR is a minimally invasive procedure with 75% less risk of complications compared to open heart surgery, and generally a faster recovery time. TAVR is recommended for people who may have conditions that make open heart surgery prohibitive or high risk. It has now been approved even for the patients who are considered intermediate risk. Generally speaking, if you have an intermediate or high risk of complications during open heart surgery, TAVR is likely to be your best option.
There are other reasons that TAVR may be the better treatment choice for you, as well. All surgeries carry risks, but the considerably lower likelihood of complications and the overall faster healing time associated with TAVR compared with SAVR may make it a better choice for you.
Your situation is unique. No one else has your specific family or medical history. Many factors are critically important when making a decision about surgical intervention to keep your heart working properly.
To explore all your options and talk to Dr. Bokhari about your individual situation, book an appointment online or by phone today!