Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR)

If you have heart valve disease, you probably feel weak, tired and short of breath. That’s why it’s important to seek treatment early, before your health worsens.

At the Center for Structural Heart Disease at Henry Ford Hospital, we offer the most advanced care for people with aortic valve disease. As pioneers in minimally invasive heart procedures, our specialists bring hope to people who have been told that their conditions were untreatable. In fact, we are among only a few hospitals in the U.S. using a sophisticated approach for patients with weak leg arteries.

What is transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR)?

TAVR provides a non-surgical alternative to valve replacement. The option can be particularly valuable for patients who have been told they do not qualify for open heart surgery.

In the cardiac catheterization lab, the team leads a long, thin, flexible tube inserted through vessels in the groin into the heart. A new, artificial heart valve on a collapsible frame is guided through the tube and expanded to replace the old, diseased aortic valve. The new valve pushes the old valve’s leaflets or flaps aside and begins to open and close with each heartbeat. 

Download our PDFs to learn more about the TAVR procedure and what to expect throughout your treatment process:

Pioneers in TAVR and advanced cardiac catheterization

Our structural heart experts continue to seek new ways to replace heart valves so that we can help people who cannot have valve repair or open-heart surgery. Our goal is to find a safe way to deliver a replacement heart valve for anyone who comes to us, regardless of their overall health.

At the Center for Structural Heart Disease at Henry Ford Hospital, your care is in expert hands. You will find:

Pioneering experts: Our structural heart specialists performed the first TAVR procedure in the U.S. and have played a major role in ongoing research for TAVR. Our program directors, William W. O’Neill, M.D., and , developed the transcaval approach for TAVR. With this approach, we can perform TAVR in people whose leg arteries are too weak for catheterization. Henry Ford is among only a few hospitals in the country using the transcaval approach.

Expertise across heart specialties: Our TAVR team includes highly skilled physicians from interventional cardiology, cardiac surgery, advanced cardiac imaging, vascular surgery and cardiac anesthesia. Together, we bring decades of experience to provide leading-edge care for patients who come from all over the world. Innovations that bring hope to patients: At Henry Ford, our world-class heart specialists can help people whom other hospitals cannot treat. Our unmatched expertise in transcatheter procedures and dedication to research mean that whatever structural heart condition you have, we can treat it.

New approaches for heart valve replacement

At Henry Ford, our structural heart program is one of only a few in the U.S. that use a variety of minimally invasive approaches to access your heart. No matter what your current health is or whether you have other conditions that rule out conventional treatment, we can find a way to treat you.

Working together, our experienced TAVR team finds the best approach based on your overall health and needs. Our approaches for TAVR include:

Transcaval approach for TAVR

Our team performed the world’s first transcaval TAVR procedure at Henry Ford in 2013. We developed the transcaval approach by temporarily connecting major blood vessels, a vein and an artery, which do not normally come together. This new approach allows us to help people whose leg arteries are too small or damaged for conventional catheterization. Our team:

  • Inserts a guide wire through a vein in your leg
  • Passes the wires from the main vein in the body into the main artery leading to your heart, the aorta.
  • Gradually dilates the openings of the vein and artery to allow a catheter to connect them.
  • Implants the new artificial heart valve and removes the catheter
  • Inserts plugs in the artery and the vein to close the holes used to temporarily connect them.

Other approaches for heart valve replacement

Depending on the health of your arteries used for catheterization, we use these other approaches to access your heart:

  • Femoral: In the standard approach for catheterization, we access an artery in your thigh (groin) to insert the catheter and guide it through the aorta to your heart.
  • Transaortic: Through a small incision in your breastbone, our physicians access your aorta with the catheter. The transaortic approach is useful for people who cannot have femoral or radial access because of artery problems due to other health conditions.
  • Transapical: We make a small incision between your ribs on the left side of your chest. We insert a catheter through this opening to directly access your heart.
  • Transcarotid: An incision of approximately one inch is made just above the clavicle through which the carotid artery is located and accessed. From this point TAVR valve delivery is the same as it would be for a transfemoral approach.

Henry Ford: heart valve conditions we treat with TAVR

If you have aortic stenosis, you may be a candidate for TAVR. Aortic stenosis occurs when the aortic valve leaflets become stiff and thick due to calcification (calcium buildup due to aging) or another condition that causes stenosis. Find out more about stenosis and other types of aortic valve disease that we treat.

We use TAVR to replace aortic valves in people who are too frail for open-heart surgery and whose aortic valve cannot be repaired. The catheter-based procedure treats aortic stenosis in a: Native valve (your own natural valve) that has stiffened because of calcification or disease Surgically implanted valve, either biological or manmade, that has deteriorated over time from a previous heart valve replacement surgery. These valves usually last 10 to 15 years.

Our clinical trials for TAVR and other minimally invasive heart procedures

Our heart experts participate in research and clinical trials to advance the standard of care for people with valve disease and other structural heart diseases. That means we can offer our patients access to studies investigating the latest advancements in TAVR and other heart catheterization procedures. Find out more about our current clinical trials.

Structural heart disease care at Henry Ford: what to expect

At Henry Ford, our entire heart team focuses on providing the best possible outcomes for your health, with a compassionate touch. Learn more about what to expect throughout your patient experience.

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