Frequently Asked Questions

Who is eligible for TAVR?

People with severe, symptomatic calcified aortic stenosis who are deemed “inoperable” or “high risk” for open-heart surgery may be good candidates for TAVR. People who are extremely sick, very petite, or who have arteries that are too small for a catheter may not be good candidates for TAVR.

How do you evaluate TAVR candidates?

The aortic valve replacement team at Providence Little Company of Mary Torrance includes cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, specially trained nurses and other specialists who are instrumental in diagnosing and/or treating aortic stenosis.

Required screening includes:

  • Transthoracic echocardiogram
  • Cardiac catheterization
  • CT scan
  • Lung function testing
  • Carotid artery ultrasound
  • Frailty – a formal diagnosis that assesses strength, mobility, nutrition and tissue integrity

Why is TAVR better than traditional valve replacement?

During traditional valve replacement, which is typically performed as open-heart surgery, the heart is stopped for the four-hour procedure. For some people, this may be too risky.

With TAVR, the doctor makes a small incision in an artery in the groin and inserts a thin catheter, instead of opening the chest wall to access the heart and remove the diseased valve. The new valve is then placed through the catheter into position across the diseased valve. After ensuring the new valve is correctly positioned, the doctor opens it with a small balloon. The new valve, which is about the diameter of a dime when fully expanded, immediately takes control of blood flow.

The TAVR procedure typically takes about 2 hours. Other benefits include less blood loss, decreased risk of infection and a faster recovery time.

What is the Edwards SAPIEN Transcatheter Aortic Heart Valve?

It’s an artificial, collapsible aortic heart valve that can be inserted into the body through a catheter-based delivery system. The valve is designed to replace an individual’s diseased "native" aortic valve without traditional open-heart surgery, allowing the heart to continue to beat. The valve can be implanted using the transfemoral technique (delivered via the femoral artery in the thigh) or transapical technique (delivered via a small incision between the ribs). See an illustrated description ›

How is the access site determined?

The femoral artery (located in the thigh) access approach is preferred when a CT angiogram determines that the aorta, iliac arteries and femoral arteries are of sufficient caliber. For people with inadequate peripheral vessels, the valve can be delivered via an incision between the ribs through the apex of the heart (transapical procedure). 

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How do I learn more or find a specialist?

Please contact the Health Resource Center at 888-HEALING (432-5464).