Harvard Health Letter

An easier way to replace a heart valve

A new procedure can help people who are too sick for surgery.

Earlier this year the FDA approved transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), but patients are just now starting to undergo the procedure. So is it making a difference? "Yes, TAVR is a dramatic development in the treatment of cardiovascular disease," says Dr. Deepak Bhatt, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. "Patients who previously would have died are now being saved by this procedure."

TAVR is used for patients with aortic stenosis—severe narrowing of the main outlet valve from the heart (the aortic valve). When the aortic valve gets tight enough, it can restrict blood flow out of the heart, leading to severe shortness of breath, chest pain, and fainting. Open-heart surgery has been the historical way to treat this problem. But some people aren't candidates for such invasive surgery because of other serious medical conditions or older age.

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