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Benefits of Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR)

Benefits of Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR)

Aortic valve stenosis or aortic stenosis occurs when the heart's aortic valve narrows and prevents the valve from opening fully. This reduces or blocks blood flow from the heart into the main artery that distributes blood to the rest of the body. If aortic stenosis progresses to a severe extent and an individual becomes symptomatic, it is ultimately a fatal condition.

Fortunately, advancements in treatment have improved patient outcomes. Transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) is a novel, minimally invasive approach to treat aortic stenosis.

“Traditionally, when people needed surgery to address their aortic stenosis they had to have an open heart surgery. They’d receive general anesthesia and spend a week in the hospital,” said Dr. Patrick Zetterlund, MD, Interventional Cardiologist at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital (SVMH). “Now, we can address this same problem by going through the groin… with a small catheter that we snake up into the heart. The patient is under light general anesthesia and generally they can go home the next day.”

Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital is in its second year of the TAVR program and has conducted the procedure on nearly 60 patients.

To listen to an in-depth conversation on this topic with Dr. Patrik Zetterlund, click here.

Who Is a Good Candidate?

When considering candidacy for the TAVR procedure, Dr. Zetterlund prefers to view it as who is not a candidate rather than who is. When the program at SVMH was first initiated, and was still considered “experimental,” it was only used on high-risk patients, those who were very sick and traditional surgery was not a desirable option.

“We proved to the surgeons that we did a better job, and then we started doing moderate-risk patients and now we do low-risk patients. And we can still beat the surgeon on complication outcomes on a low-risk patient. So, it’s very rare we see anyone who is not a candidate. I would say that at Salinas close to 90% of people who have aortic valve problems will get the minimally invasive procedure,” says Dr. Patrik Zetterlund.

Upon receiving a referral, it becomes a team approach to make the final decision as to whether or not a patient is a candidate for TAVR. The TAVR team includes Dr. Zetterlund, the referring cardiologist and a surgeon.

“We meet in what we call a TAVR panel, and this panel looks over all the information specific to each unique patient. We make a collective decision that this is an appropriate candidate or not,” explains Dr. Zetterlund.

Recovery & Long-Term Outcomes

Thanks to the minimally invasive nature of the TAVR procedure, patients typically only spend one night in the hospital. They are even able to drive the following day and may resume regular activities within 24 to 48 hours.

The complication rate of a TAVR runs very low; at least as low as what would be considered an “uncomplicated surgery.” And, the quality of life benefit is tremendous. In some cases, Dr. Zetterlund says individuals may be able to extend their life 10 or 20 years.

“We see individuals in their 90s, who certainly would not have been a surgical candidate, have many more years of good quality of life.”

For more information on TAVR, call Ann Timberlake, RN the TAVR Program Coordinator, at 831-759-1992.

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