Aortic stenosis is a serious, progressive heart valve disease that makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood. Left untreated, it can lead to heart failure and even death.

Traditionally, treatment for severe aortic stenosis was valve replacement with open heart surgery–a major procedure not appropriate for every patient, according to Dr. Zubair Ahmed, a cardiologist at Washington Regional Cardiovascular Clinic, part of the Washington Regional Walker Heart Institute. "There are patients who have a lot of health issues in addition to aortic stenosis that would make major surgery challenging for them," he says. "They may be elderly or have kidney problems or lung problems; they may have had a stroke or cancer."

For these patients, Ahmed says, there is a minimally invasive treatment option called TAVR–transcatheter aortic valve replacement. The procedure is also sometimes referred to as transcatheter aortic valve implantation, or TAVI.

This minimally invasive technique uses a catheter inserted in the leg or groin to replace the aortic valve without opening the chest. In a TAVR procedure, the replacement valve is positioned inside the old, damaged valve and takes over the job of regulating blood flow. "This is offered for patients who are at moderate or high risk for open heart surgery," Ahmed says, adding that patients who would not have been considered healthy enough for valve replacement surgery can now benefit from treatment and enjoy an improved quality of life.

"Patients are evaluated by our valve team," Ahmed says. "That includes interventional cardiologists, cardiovascular surgeons and our valve coordinator. Plus, the referring physician is involved, so it is a team decision to deem the best option for patients."

Since first offering TAVR in 2018, Washington Regional has performed more than 300 of the procedures, making it the leading TAVR center in Northwest Arkansas.

For more information or to make an appointment at Washington Regional Cardiovascular Clinic, click here.