Frequently Asked Questions: TAVR

What is a Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR)?

TAVR is a minimally invasive procedure to replace the aortic valve in patients with severe aortic stenosis. Originally developed for patients who were too ill for open-heart surgical aortic valve replacement (SAVR), TAVR is now available to patients at moderate and low risk for surgery.

Why is TAVR now an option for low-risk patients?

In the approximately 10 years since TAVR was introduced, the procedure has become standard, with the University of Michigan Frankel Cardiovascular Center leading in the number of procedures performed. Due to excellent clinical trial results showing equal or better patient outcomes compared to SAVR, TAVR technology is now proving to be a viable option for moderate- and low-risk surgical patients, as well.

What are the advantages?

TAVR provides a less invasive approach for the treatment of severe aortic stenosis. Patients who undergo the TAVR procedure typically experience less down time, faster recovery and a shorter hospital stay (3 to 5 days on average) than SAVR patients. Most TAVR patients regain their strength and are able to begin cardiac rehabilitation within a period of days or weeks. In contrast, open-heart surgical procedures often require up to three months for recovery.

Having performed more than 1,800 TAVRs, Michigan Medicine leads the state in the number of these procedures and is one of the top programs in the country in terms of aortic heart valve experience.

What happens during the procedure?

During a TAVR procedure, a collapsible replacement valve is delivered via catheter through a large artery in the groin or chest. Once the new valve is in place, it is expanded, pushing the old valve leaflets aside and taking over the job of regulating blood flow. The procedure requires two small incisions, depending on where the catheter is inserted (groin or chest).

How will I know if I am a candidate for a TAVR procedure?

All patients with severe aortic stenosis symptoms should be fully evaluated at a center of excellence for treatment options. After comprehensive testing at Michigan Medicine, our multidisciplinary team evaluates the results to determine the best treatment for each patient.

How long will I be in the hospital after my TAVR?

TAVR patients typically spend about 3 to 5 days in the hospital.

Are there any major restrictions after the procedure?

There are no real restrictions, but you will receive detailed instructions after your procedure.

What is longer-term recovery like?

Most patients can go back to their normal lifestyle after a few days and return to regular activities much faster than with major surgery, which often requires up to a three-month recovery period.

What testing will I need to qualify for a TAVR procedure?

A variety of tests will be needed to evaluate your aortic stenosis. The exact tests will be determined at your first appointment. 

Why do I have to get dental clearance?

Bacteria in the mouth, if left untreated, can travel through the bloodstream to the surgery site, causing complications such as infective endocarditis, a potentially life-threatening infection of the inner tissues of the heart, including the heart valves. A dentist must check for and eliminate any presence of potential sources of infection, including gum disease, severe tooth decay or tooth abscess.

Is TAVR covered by insurance?

Coverage depends on your insurance policy. We accept different insurance plans.

Is it safe to have an X-ray or MRI with a TAVR?

X-rays and MRIs are generally safe. It is important, though, to tell any healthcare provider that you've undergone a TAVR procedure.

What is the future of TAVR?

As TAVR continues to result in positive outcomes and the number of procedures to treat aortic stenosis grows, experts believe TAVR will eventually be available to treat patients with other aortic conditions, including aortic insufficiency and bicuspid aortic valve.

Patient Resources

Make an Appointment

To make an appointment to discuss your need for aortic valve treatment, call the U-M Frankel Cardiovascular Center toll-free at 888-287-1082 or visit our Make a Cardiovascular Appointment page, where you may view other details about making an appointment.