Normal aortic valve and a valve with stenosis

What is TAVI?

Transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI) is a procedure that replaces the aortic heart valve. It is done to treat aortic valve stenosis. In aortic valve stenosis, the valve between your heart and the large blood vessel that carries blood to the body (aorta) has narrowed. That forces the heart to pump harder to get enough blood through the valve. TAVI can help people feel better and live longer. TAVI is also called transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR).

In TAVI, the doctor uses a catheter to put in the new heart valve. Open-heart surgery is not done.

TAVI is a newer procedure. How well it works long-term is not known yet. And TAVI can cause serious problems. These include stroke, a heart attack during the procedure, or even death.

TAVI may be a good option for a person who cannot have surgery or for a person who has a high risk of serious problems from open-heart surgery. For example, you might think about TAVI if you are not healthy enough for an open-heart surgery. TAVI may not be a good choice if an open-heart surgery is likely to be successful. A team of doctors will use professional guidelines to decide whether or not TAVI is a good choice for you. Your personal feelings are also important. Talk to your doctors about your goals for treatment.

How is TAVI done?

TAVI is often done through an incision (cut) in the groin. But sometimes a small cut is made in the chest. The doctor uses a tube called a catheter and special tools that fit inside the catheter. The doctor puts the catheter into a blood vessel and moves it through the blood vessel and into the heart. A specially designed artificial valve fits inside the catheter. The doctor then moves the new valve into the damaged aortic valve. The artificial valve expands and takes the place of the damaged aortic valve.

You may be asleep for the procedure, or you may get a sedative that will help you relax. The surgery usually takes about 2 to 3 hours. You will have to stay in the hospital for several days after the procedure.

What can you expect after TAVI?

  • While you are in the hospital, your doctors and nurses will monitor you to check how the new valve is working.
  • You will receive information from the hospital about diet, activities, and medicine.
  • You will need to have regular checkups with your doctor.
  • When you leave the hospital, your doctor may give you a blood thinner for a few months to prevent blood clots. If you get a blood thinner, be sure you get instructions about how to take your medicine safely. Blood thinners can cause serious bleeding problems.

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.