Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) is a cutting edge treatment for the replacement of the aortic valve. The aortic valve is one of the four valves found in the heart. It sits between the left ventricle and the aorta. The aortic valve opens to allow blood to flow through the aorta. The aorta is important because it carries oxygenated blood to the rest of the body. When the aorta is not operating properly, it will prevent blood from flowing to the rest of the body. It does not typically stop blood flow completely, but it does limit the the flow of blood until it causes a heart attack. Through TAVR, the aortic valve can be replaced with minimal complications.
The aorta is one of the largest of the blood vessels in the body. It is considered an artery. Blood naturally flows from the lungs to the left atrium, left ventricle, then the aorta. The aorta also has what is called an aortic arch. The arch changes the direction of the aorta. Instead of going up towards the head, the main part of the aorta goes down towards the legs. It is important to note that the aorta branches at the arch so that blood and oxygen can reach the brain. It then branches off to the hands and other parts of the body. It supplies the body with the oxygenated blood it requires. The aortic valve is very important because it gives blood the access it needs to reach the rest of the body.
The aortic valve is susceptible to two main issues: Aortic valve stenosis and aortic valve regurgitation. Aortic valve stenosis is the narrowing of the aortic valve. When the valve becomes narrow, it prevents the necessary amount of blood to flow through the aorta. All the blood that leaves the ventricle should be able to move to the aorta quickly. Blood flow is not completely cut off, but the decrease in blood flow prevents the body from getting what it needs. Aortic valve regurgitation is a weakness in the leaflets of the aortic valve. The valve does not close tightly once blood flows into the aorta. When the valve does not seal shut, blood will flow backwards. The aorta branches off to every part of the body, and it is the only access blood has to the rest of the body. When the aorta does not get the blood it is supposed to, the whole body suffers.
Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement is done through three different mechanisms. None of those mechanisms require open heart surgery. All three methods use a catheter. The catheter carries the replacement valve inside of it. The first mechanism for TAVR is a transfemoral approach. The femoral artery is a great access point for the catheter. The femoral artery is in the leg. An incision is made in the leg. The catheter enters the cardiovascular system through the femoral artery and travels up to the aortic valve. Once the catheter reaches the aortic valve, a balloon placed at the end of the catheter opens and expands the new valve. Once the new valve is in place, the old aortic valve is pushed against the walls of the aorta.
The second method of surgery is the transaortic approach. Instead of going through the femoral artery, an incision is made in the chest. The incision is just big enough to allow the catheter to enter. The catheter punctures the aortic arch. It goes through the arch to the aortic valve. The catheter uses the same mechanism as the femoral approach. The catheter carries a balloon and expands the replacement valve to put it in place.
The last mechanism is the transapical approach. This approach differs because it goes through the apex of the heart. It cuts through the left ventricle of the heart and replaces the valve from below instead of from the top end. Again a balloon catheter is used and puts the valve in its proper place. There are pros and cons to each method of surgery. A surgeon will determine the best method for you based on your history, age, and overall health.
TAVR surgery is a quick and minimally invasive surgery that improves prognosis as well as recovery time. Since there are only small incisions being made, your body can heal faster. Surgery time is also shorter. Instead of having to open the chest, fix the problem, then sew everything back together; you simply make an incision, insert the catheter, and remove the catheter. You may have to staple the small cut but that is a small task. Scarring is minimized as well. After surgery, you will be able to get back on your feet much quicker, your body does not have to recover from a lot of trauma, meaning you can return to your normal activities sooner.
Transcatheter aortic valve replacement has become the best technique for replacing a faulty aortic valve. There are several mechanisms for TAVR. A surgeon determines the mechanism used. If a surgeon does not want to cut into the heart, they will more than likely use the transfemoral method. This prevents any incisions being made in the heart. The other two methods: transaortic and transapical require a cut through either the wall of the heart or the wall of the artery. It is important to speak with a surgeon about your options for aortic valve replacement. Be confident that your doctor will choose the method that is best for you.
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