Severe aortic valve stenosis is a narrowing of the aortic valve opening that does not allow normal blood flow. This can lead to chest pain or chest tightness, heart palpitations, fatigue and shortness of breath, especially with exertion.  No drug therapy exists for treating severe aortic stenosis but with aortic valve replacement many people go on to lead normal, healthy lives.

Physicians have had great success in treating severe aortic valve stenosis by replacing the faulty valve with a mechanical one or a valve made from animal tissue, however some patients are not healthy enough for open-heart surgery. These patients may benefit from a new replacement valve that can be implanted through a small incision in the groin or between the ribs, eliminating the need for a large incision in the chest.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) for appropriate patients with aortic valve stenosis who are not candidates for open surgery to replace their natural aortic valve. The procedure resembles a balloon angioplasty, in which a catheter - a long, flexible tube - is threaded through an artery and a balloon device on the end inflates to help open up a narrowing in an artery in the heart.

In the case of TAVR, the replacement valve collapses to a very small diameter and is crimped onto the balloon device. The surgeon positions the replacement valve inside the patient's natural aortic valve and inflates the balloon. This causes the replacement valve to expand, pushing the faulty valve aside.  The replacement valve begins to function as soon as the balloon catheter deflates permitting the flow of blood.  Patients usually enjoy immediate benefit from the procedure in terms of improved blood circulation.  Because the replacement valve is replaced using minimally invasive techniques, patients usually experience a much more rapid recovery then they would from a traditional, open-heart valve replacement. 

To learn more about severe aortic stenosis and the Heart Valve Clinic at UC Davis please email Janine Carlson, R.N., B.S.N. or call 916-734-6500.