The valves in our hearts control the blood flow in and out of that crucial organ. As we age, two problems can develop. A valve can thicken and fail to open completely, preventing the blood from emptying out of the heart. Or a valve can start leaking, allowing the blood to go in the wrong direction.
“Medication will not fix either of these problems,” says McLeod Cardiologist Fred Krainin, MD. “You can either repair the valve or replace it with a mechanical valve or a valve made of material from a pig or cow.”
“In my 30-plus years as a cardiologist, I’ve been privileged to witness some amazing advances in heart treatment,” observes Dr. Krainin. “In the 1960s, we introduced coronary artery bypass grafts. In the 70s, discovered balloon angioplasty to clear clogged veins. In the 90s, coronary stents were used to keep the arteries open. And now another development transforms the world of heart disease treatment – Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement or TAVR (TAH-veer).”
The traditional surgical approach involved an incision through the breast bone, opening up the chest to gain access to the heart, removing the bad valve and sewing in the replacement.
“The TAVR approach shares similarities with a heart catheterization or placement of a coronary stent,’ observes Dr. Krainin. “In some 90-95% of the cases, we go in through the femoral artery, a major blood vessel in the leg. We thread up through the artery to the heart and place the new valve. Other than the small incision on the leg, there is no surgery involved.”
“This is especially helpful for people in their 80s, who may have other health problems, which make traditional surgery risky,” points out Dr. Krainin. “Recent research shows that the TAVR procedure also works for patients of intermediate risk and studies are currently underway to confirm that low-risk patients also may be appropriate for TAVR.”
ACTION YOU CAN TAKE
In order to determine if you’re a candidate for TAVR, see a cardiologist for testing.
McLeod also offers a Valve Clinic, staffed with cardiologist, cardiac surgeons and a valve coordinator to evaluate candidates for the TAVR procedure. Your physicians can refer you for an appointment by calling 843-777-8258.