Fixing a heart valve without open-heart surgery

August 19, 2016
Your heart beats on average 4,800 times an hour, or about 42 million times a year. Each time, your heart valves open and close to circulate blood. That’s a lot of opening and closing!

Our heart valves are like plumbing when they send blood in the right direction. And just like plumbing, our valves can fail by becoming:

  • Tight, which is known as stenosis
  • Leaky, which is known as regurgitation

Blood passes through the aortic valve as it flows from the heart out to the rest of the body. As we grow older, this valve often develops calcific deposits. This can make it hard for the aorta to open and close, restricting blood flow.

The only way to fix a diseased aortic heart valve used to be open-heart surgery. But today, specialists use minimally invasive techniques in cases where traditional surgery is too risky for patients with severe aortic valve stenosis.

Swedish pioneered the treatment in this region and we’ve had great results. Patients are up and about faster, they are discharged from the hospital earlier and they recover quicker. Now, we’re part of a national trial to determine whether this procedure also should be an option for patients with aortic valve stenosis at all levels of risk. 

Minimally invasive – for your body, mind and soul

Minimally invasive has many definitions – minimally invasive to your body, minimally invasive to your spirit and soul, and minimally invasive to you and your family’s well-being. The Swedish Structural Heart Program works to make sure you can return to your normal life as soon as possible after treatment for heart valve disease. 

The Structural Heart Program takes a multidisciplinary approach to treatment, using new technologies such as transcatheter aortic valve replacement, or TAVR. Our program includes cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons and imaging specialists.

Our surgeons have the best record in Washington state and are part of a three-star program recognized nationally by the Society of Thoracic Surgeons. 

How TAVR works

By using keyhole incisions in the groin, we can insert a new heart valve inside the stenotic aortic valve. This minimally invasive approach works because we don’t remove the old valve.

Our goal is to make sure treatment disrupts the lives of you and your family as little as possible. Swedish is the only program in the region to offer conscious, or light, sedation for TAVR. Patients who undergo TAVR with light sedation:

  • Don’t need a breathing tube during the procedure
  • Can communicate with their caregivers
  • Bypass the intensive care unit after surgery
  • Can walk on the same day as the procedure
  • Recover more quickly
  • Return home faster

Watch this video to learn more.

National study to expand TAVR

Now the federal Food and Drug Administration is looking at whether to expand TAVR to all patients. Because of Swedish’s outstanding cardiac surgery and structural heart teams, we are one of a handful of hospitals across the country to offer TAVR to low-risk patients as part of an FDA-approved study. Participants 75 and older will have a 50 percent chance of surgery or TAVR. 

Learn more about our Structural Heart Disease Program. To be considered for TAVR or to schedule a consultation, call 206-320-8100.

Topics: Heart Vascular