How to Choose a TAVR Center
August 09, 2016
The valves in our heart play a vital role, opening and closing to allow normal blood flow. The aortic valve is responsible for allowing blood to pass between the left ventricle and the aorta. Sometimes, however, the aortic valve opening narrows, preventing this normal flow and causing a condition called aortic valve stenosis. The condition can develop slowly and can be difficult to diagnose. As the condition progresses, the heart gradually becomes weaker because it is forced to work harder to circulate the blood. As the blood flow becomes more reduced, you might feel fatigued, short of breath and dizzy, and may have chest pain.
Once diagnosed, your doctor will run tests, such as an echocardiogram, to determine the best treatment. Valve repair or replacement may be recommended, and surgery may be your best option. For those who are not candidates for traditional open-heart surgery due to age or health-related reasons, there may still be options. Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) is a non-surgical treatment that uses a catheter to insert the new valve into the body. Your care team will do an evaluation to determine whether or not the procedure is appropriate for you.
While evaluating where to go for your TAVR procedure, it’s important to review your options carefully. Who you choose to see is not a decision that should be taken lightly. There are many factors that come into play when making any medical decision, but especially when it’s a procedure so "close to your heart."
Things to Keep in Mind While Evaluating TAVR Programs
- Experience – everyone knows practice makes perfect. The same is true when it comes to medicine. Look for a program that performs a high volume of TAVR procedures, and look into their outcomes. Look for physicians with first-hand knowledge and experience with the procedure, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Additionally, Penn’s TAVR team is one of the first medical centers using an innovative, FDA-approved device called the Sentinel Cerebral Protection System that helps protect patients from a stroke during the procedure. Penn Medicine has performed over 2,500 procedures and was the first in the Philadelphia region to perform the procedure.
- Research – The research of today is the treatment of tomorrow. At academic medical centers like Penn, clinical care, education and research are combined to provide the best possible patient care. Experienced heart valve surgeons and interventional cardiologists are trained in all the latest surgical techniques, and not only perform procedures like TAVR, but they help to develop them. In fact, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP) was one of 23 hospitals nationwide that participated in the FDA regulated clinical trial examining the use of TAVR back in 2007. Today, Penn is the most experienced provider of TAVR in Philadelphia, and every day is developing new, innovative procedures to improve patient care.
- Communication – This is a very important part of any patient/doctor relationship. When evaluating your options for TAVR, make sure that your questions will be answered in a way that you understand. Whether you are asking for yourself or a loved one, you need to be a part of your health care decisions, on the front lines of those decisions, not taking a back seat. Find a program that will make you part of the team with the same end goal – a healthier heart. In addition to a patient-centered clinical team, Penn Medicine’s secure online portal gives you access to your most recent lab results, medication and summaries at any time, day or night. You can also directly communicate with your physician and get the information you need.
Whether you have been seen already and want to get a second opinion, or it is your first time searching for this specialty, Penn Medicine can help. We hope these tips provide you with the confidence that you need to choose the best TAVR program for you.