Structural Heart Resources & FAQs

The doctors and specialists at Virginia Mason Franciscan Health are relentlessly devoted to providing our community with the resources it needs to stay healthy. Below we answer your most common questions about structural heart disease treatment. 

Structural heart disease FAQs

  • What is TAVR?

    Transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR, is a minimally invasive heart valve replacement procedure that replaces the diseased heart valve. During the procedure, a compressed tissue heart valve is attached to a catheter, positioned inside the narrowed native aortic valve, and expanded with the support of a metal stent.

  • What are the benefits of TAVR?

    TAVR is an option for patients with severe aortic stenosis for whom traditional open-chest surgery may be too risky. This potentially lifesaving procedure is most often performed with local anesthetic and moderate sedation instead of general anesthesia.

    Instead of opening your chest, surgeons can access the aortic valve through a small incision using a catheter. Generally, advantages of TAVR over traditional valve replacement surgery include:

    • Faster recovery—there is no large incision.
    • Shorter hospital stay—about 90 percent of our patients are discharged either on the same day or the day after their procedure, and most patients are discharged directly to home to complete their recovery.
    • Often a viable treatment option for various ages and risk levels.

    TAVR patients often go home from the hospital and are back to many of their usual activities within a few days.

  • How does TAVR work?

    During the TAVR procedure, your heart valve team inserts a new aortic valve within your diseased aortic valve while the heart is still beating. We’ll discuss the exact procedure with you in depth, including how we’ll access the valve through a blood vessel (usually in the groin). In general, your doctors will:

    • Place you in a state of conscious sedation, although we do use general anesthesia on rare occasion.
    • Make small incisions to place catheters.
    • Using a thin tube called a catheter, place a biological tissue replacement valve into your own aortic valve; it becomes a “valve within a valve."
    • Expand the new valve, which pushes the old valve leaflets out of the way so the replacement valve can take over the job of regulating blood flow out of the heart.
  • Who can have TAVR?

    Many people are potential candidates for the TAVR procedure, including those who have previously had open-heart surgery or have other health issues that make them poor candidates for traditional surgery. If you are a candidate, you will complete several diagnostic tests before your TAVR procedure. Your heart valve team will select the type of replacement valve and procedure approach best for your unique anatomy.

  • Who is a candidate for aortic valve in-valve replacement?

    Aortic valve in-valve replacement is a minimally invasive TAVR procedure for patients who have had previous open-heart valve surgery to replace the aortic valve with a bioprosthetic/tissue valve and the tissue valve is now failing. Instead of the failing aortic tissue valve being replaced during another open-heart valve surgery, the failing aortic tissue valve is replaced by placing a TAVR valve inside the failing aortic tissue valve. 

  • What is mitral valve in-valve replacement?

    Mitral valve in-valve replacement is a minimally invasive transcatheter mitral valve replacement (TMVR) procedure for patients who have had previous open-heart valve surgery to replace the mitral valve with a bioprosthetic/tissue valve and the tissue valve is now failing. Instead of the failing mitral valve being replaced during another open-heart valve surgery, the failing mitral tissue valve is replaced by placing a TMVR valve inside the failing mitral tissue valve.

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