What is the TAVI (Transcatheter Aortic Valve Implantation) procedure?
Narrowing of the aortic valve (aortic stenosis), a common condition in elderly people, obstructs blood coming out of the heart. Once severe this is a debilitating condition, weakening the heart and rapidly leading to heart failure. Patients who are too frail to undergo open heart surgery to replace the defective heart valve can now have this done by the keyhole technique of transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVI).
What does the TAVI procedure involve?
The new valve is mounted within a metal cage that is advanced into place using a specialised delivery catheter. This is inserted either into an artery at the top of the leg, or through an incision in the chest. Once in place the metal cage is expanded, opening up the diseased valve, and the new valve starts working straight away.
Are there any alternatives to surgery?
The alternative to the TAVI procedure is open heart surgery.
What complications can happen?
When inserted into the artery in the leg, patients recover rapidly and some patients may even go home the following day. When inserted through the chest, recovery takes a few days but is much quicker than open heart surgery. There are a number of potential complications, some of which are serious and even life threatening. Fortunately these are rare, with the commonest complication being the need for a pacemaker - which is a minor procedure, often done at the sam time as the valve procedure.
How soon will I recover?
Patients will feel rapidly better, often after only a few days, with recovery times much shorter than open heart surgery.
Paying for your operation
TAVI costs are covered by most medical insurance policies, but please check with your insurer first. If you are paying for your own treatment the cost of the operation will be explained and confirmed in writing when you book the operation. Ask the hospital for a quote beforehand, and ensure that this includes the surgeon’s fee, the anaesthetist’s fee and the hospital charge for your procedure.