Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR)

If you have severe aortic stenosis, you’re experiencing a stiffening and narrowing of the aortic valve. This restricts the flow of blood from the heart into the aorta. Your heart has to work harder, and the strain can weaken the heart muscle and lead to heart failure.

Treating severe aortic stenosis requires replacing the faulty valve in your heart.

UI Health Care experts helped pioneer transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), a minimally invasive heart valve replacement surgery that in most cases requires only a tiny incision near the groin instead of open-heart surgery.

Our team is the state's largest and most experienced in these state-of-the-art procedures. We perform more TAVR procedures than any other Iowa health system and have special expertise in complex cases. Ours was the first TAVR program in the nation to be certified by the Joint Commission.

How TAVR works

TAVR patients typically have faster recovery, shorter hospitalization, less pain, and fewer complications than patients who have open-heart surgery.

Most TAVR procedures are performed through an artery in your thigh.

  • You’ll be placed under conscious sedation, so you’re relaxed but awake.
  • An interventional cardiologist and cardiac surgeon thread a replacement aortic valve onto a thin, flexible tube called a catheter.
  • The doctor inserts the catheter into the femoral artery at the front of the thigh and threads it up through the artery to the heart.
  • The new valve is then positioned inside the narrowed aortic valve and opened like an umbrella to reach its full size. This moves the old, diseased valve to the side and restores blood flow.
  • The procedure usually takes one to two hours.
  • You’ll probably be in the hospital for one to two days and will be able to gradually resume regular activity in a week to 10 days.

If your leg artery is diseased, or too small to accommodate the new valve, your doctor might insert it through a small incision in your shoulder or chest. UI Heart and Vascular Center interventional cardiologists have extensive experience in this approach.

A national leader in TAVR

The UI Heart and Vascular Center was first in Iowa to offer TAVR and is the most experienced TAVR center in the region. U.S. News & World Report recognizes our TAVR program as one of the best nationally for our patient outcomes, the number of patients we care for, and continuity of care throughout the patient's experience.

Our experts have performed more than 1,500 TAVR procedures, with a success rate of 99%, consistently higher than the national average.

We're the only center in Iowa that offers you the opportunity to participate in leading-edge clinical trials for TAVR. Recent studies have included:

  • Trials to reduce the risk of stroke in TAVR procedures
  • Next generation valve systems to improve procedure outcomes
  • Using TAVR on patients with severe aortic disease before they have symptoms, with the goal of reducing complications down the road

UI Health Care was also the first in the state to use a new technique called BASILICA (bioprosthetic aortic scallop intentional laceration to prevent iatrogenic coronary artery obstruction). BASILICA makes heart valve replacement safer for some high-risk patients with severe aortic stenosis.

Who can benefit from TAVR?

TAVR was originally used to treat people with a high risk of having complications during open-heart surgery. The UI Heart and Vascular Center was the only site in Iowa that participated in an international clinical trial of TAVR in patients whose open-heart surgery risk is low.

A year after having TAVR instead of surgery, the patients in that trial had significantly lower combined rates of death, stroke, and rehospitalization. As a result, TAVR is now a treatment option for anyone with severe aortic stenosis.

With the most comprehensive TAVR program in Iowa and western Illinois, our team works together closely to determine whether TAVR will work for you.

Your team of heart specialists will include heart surgeons, interventional cardiologists, heart imaging specialists, and anesthesiologists.

The first step will be an examination and heart testing, potentially including an echocardiogram, a computed tomographic (CT) angiogram, and cardiac catheterization. Then your team will meet to determine the best treatment for your aortic stenosis.

If you're not eligible for TAVR

If TAVR isn't the right solution for you because of other medical conditions or the anatomy of your heart, you may be a candidate for a valve replacement through open-heart surgery. Your cardiologist will work with you to determine the right option.

Not sure whether TAVR is right for you?

When you call 1-319-356-7102, we'll help you find a provider who meets your needs.

The nation's first certified TAVR program

The TAVR program at UI Health Care was the first in the U.S. to be certified by the Joint Commission.

Care Team

UI Health Care providers perform more TAVR procedures than any other team in Iowa.