An alternative to open-heart surgery for a severely narrowed aorta

At UW Health, we’re nationally known for heart care. Patients come to us for the most advanced treatments and services. One of these is TAVR — transcatheter aortic heart valve replacement — a minimally invasive treatment that we helped pioneer. 

TAVR is a treatment for aortic valve stenosis. The aortic valve helps move blood from your heart to your aorta, the large artery that carries oxygen-rich blood to your body. Stenosis refers to narrowing of the valve.

About the treatment

What is TAVR?

Stenosis commonly occurs when calcium builds up in your valve. This is often a result of aging. Your heart must work harder to get blood through a narrowed valve. This increases your risk of heart failure and abnormal heart rhythms. Many people with aortic valve stenosis develop chest pain, fatigue and dizziness. Exercise may also become more difficult. 

TAVR allows us to correct these problems by placing a new valve directly into your diseased valve. Rather than doing surgery and opening your chest, we deliver the new valve with a catheter that we insert into an artery and thread to your heart. 

In most cases, you have a shorter hospital stay with TAVR than with open-heart surgery. Your overall recovery is also faster.

Who is TAVR for? 

We use TAVR to treat adults with severe aortic stenosis who would not tolerate open-heart surgery well. Doctors make sure that the benefit you would get from the treatment would not be offset by other medical conditions you have.

Treatment process

What to expect

Here’s what you can expect during treatment: 

  1. We make a small incision in an artery. Most often, we use the femoral artery in your groin.

  2. We thread a catheter to your heart. The catheter is a thin, flexible tube. We watch it as it moves through your artery using real-time X-ray images. On the tip of the catheter is a balloon with the new valve placed over it. 

  3. We place the new valve. When the catheter reaches your aortic valve, doctors inflate the balloon. This expands the new valve so that it will stay in position. It begins taking over the work of your diseased valve.

  4. We remove the catheter. Once the valve is safely in place, we remove the catheter and close your incision. Your stay in the hospital is just a few days so we can monitor you and make sure your new valve is working well.

Even though TAVR is a minimally invasive procedure, it still comes with some risks. However, most patients do well and see improvement in their symptoms. Also, many people live longer because of the procedure.

Meet our team

Experience sets us apart

Because we were one of the first programs in the country to offer TAVR, we have experience and expertise that few others can match. Our heart doctors work together to provide you excellent care.

Cardiovascular medicine
Cardiothoracic surgery

Patient story

Couple benefits from TAVR

David was experiencing fatigue and other symptoms due to aortic stenosis, or calcification buildup in his aortic valve. He qualified to have an aortic valve implanted through the minimally invasive TAVR procedure. After seeing him breeze through the process and recovery, David’s wife Carol also had the TAVR procedure a year later. For both of them, TAVR restored their confidence to be active and enjoy a better quality of life.


Get all the expertise of our Heart Valve Clinic

If you have aortic valve stenosis, we treat you through our Heart Valve Clinic at University Hospital in Madison, Wis. We accept physician referrals and self-referrals.

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Exceptional heart care for all your medical needs