TAVI (transcatheter aortic valve implantation)

What is TAVI?

Transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI) , which is known as transcatheter aortic valve replacement or TAVR in the USA, is a modern innovative surgical technique to replace the aortic valve. The aortic valve opens when the heart pumps blood, but if it cannot open or close properly the heart is put under strain. For patients who cannot undergo open-heart surgery, TAVI allows surgeons to implant a specially designed aortic valve using a catheter (a long, narrow tube), which is inserted via a large blood vessel (often in the groin).

Why is TAVI performed?

The aortic valve, one of four valves in our heart, plays the role of connecting the left ventricle with the aortic artery, the main article in the human body. When the valve has anomalies in its functioning, the blood returns towards the ventricle and produces in the long-term aortic valve disease. Aortic valve disease includes aortic stenosis (restricted blood flow caused by a narrowing of the valve) and aortic regurgitation (blood leaks back through the valve into the heart). Both of these can ultimately lead to heart failure.

TAVI is particularly suitable for patients who would be too weak to undergo open-heart surgery, such as the elderly or those with additional health concerns, such as liver disease or chronic obstructive pulmonary diseases (COPD).

What is TAVI?

TAVI is performed percutaneously, i.e. the new valve is positioned through the use of a catheter which is introduced from one of the main arteries, usually the femoral artery in the thigh. Once the correct position is reached, the new valve begins to expand, and after this the catheter is removed. Using an X-ray, the specialist is able to precisely position and expand the new valve through the catheter.

Preparation for surgery

Before carrying out the operation it is advisable to consult your specialist about any medications that may need to be halted for a time period. Generally all anticoagulant-based therapies will have to be suspended and the intake of salt and liquids reduced in the days prior to the procedure.