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TAVR 101: Understanding a Valve Disease Diagnosis

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Heart valve disease can start at birth or develop over time. Sometimes, heart valve disease develops into a dangerous condition requiring treatment. If you or a loved one have been diagnosed with valve disease, you may have heard TAVR discussed as a treatment option. 

In article about transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), we’ll explain what aortic valve stenosis is and howDr. Kevin Accola and the AdventHealth Cardiovascular Institute team uses TAVR to get heart valve patients back on the road to whole health. 

We hope you can overcome any fears you may have about the procedure when you understand your options and know that you have the support of a world-class care team beside you. 

Using TAVR to Treat Aortic Valve Stenosis

Aortic valve stenosis is a condition affecting your heart’s ability to pump blood efficiently due to your aortic valve’s stiffening and narrowing.

A simple way to think of it is to compare the aortic valve to the flap in a toilet tank. If the flap doesn’t open fully, enough water doesn’t get released to flush the bowl.

In this analogy, the flap is your aortic valve, the tank is your heart, the water is your blood and the bowl is your body not getting what it needs to operate properly.

A TAVR procedure is the plumber who comes to replace the flap but manages to do it without removing the lid, or in this case without opening your chest. TAVR is a minimally invasive surgical procedure used to treat aortic valve stenosis by replacing your current diseased valve. 

In the past, open heart surgery was required to replace an aortic heart valve, but thanks to today’s advances in technology and medical procedures, it can be done with just a few small incisions.

What Are the Symptoms of Aortic Valve Stenosis?

If you have mild to moderate aortic stenosis, you may never have any symptoms at all. However, the most common symptoms of advanced stenosis are:

•    Chest pain
•    Dizziness or fainting
•    Leg swelling
•    Severe tiredness
•    Shortness of breath

Symptoms of aortic valve stenosis may look like other health problems, so you should always see your health care provider for a diagnosis.

How is Aortic Valve Stenosis Diagnosed?

To diagnose aortic valve stenosis, your doctor will first ask you questions about your family and medical history. Afterward, they’ll likely order a series of tests to determine if you have aortic valve stenosis. These tests help diagnose your heart valve problem and rule out any other disease you may have.

Listening to Your Heart

A problem with a heart valve will usually cause the heart to make a certain distinct noise. Your doctor can hear this noise, called a murmur, with a stethoscope. However, you can also have a heart murmur and not have valve disease or any other heart problem. 

Other tests can help confirm the diagnosis of valve disease. Heart murmurs are most often completely normal, but sometimes they can be a sign of heart disease.

Looking at Your Heart

A transthoracic, or surface, echocardiogram (echo) is a simple, painless test that bounces harmless sound waves off your heart. These sound waves become images on a video screen and your doctor can then see a moving picture of your heart. This test shows how the valves work and can confirm whether a valve is narrowed or leaking. It can also show the size of the chambers and whether your heart muscle pumps normally. 

A special type of echo, called a transesophageal echo (TEE), may be done as well. This test can provide even more detailed information about your heart valves. But a TEE is somewhat more involved than a surface echo since it requires a probe to be passed into your esophagus. So, a surface echo is usually the first test done. Echo testing can also help your doctor monitor changes in your heart over time.

Other Tests

There are two other non-invasive tests your doctor may order. A chest X-ray simply looks at your heart and lungs and you may also have an electrocardiogram, which is a test that shows the electrical signals and rhythm of your heartbeat. 

Your doctor may decide it’s necessary to perform a cardiac catheterization, which is an invasive test, to look inside your heart. This test helps measure the pressure in the chambers, checks for leaky valves, and looks for problems in your heart’s arteries.

Next Steps

Know that whatever heart care you or a loved one need, we’re always here for you. To schedule a time to speak with one of our cardiovascular specialists, please visit AdventHealthCardiovascularInstitute.com or call Call833-346-6994.

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