When surgeons are dealing with clogged or narrowed aortic valves, they often perform a procedure that involves opening the chest in order to replace the blocked valve with an artificial one.
For some heart patients, such as the elderly, the surgery is too risky. Bellevue’s Overlake Medical Center and Group Health Cooperative have teamed up to offer a new, less invasive procedure, performed at Overlake: transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR). The procedure involves inserting a catheter through the ribs or the femoral artery to the heart, creating a pathway through which surgeons insert a replacement valve. This is all accomplished without having to open the patient’s chest.
Overlake is one of just four medical centers in Washington state offering this treatment. Normally, patients with such severe valve blockage or narrowing have a mortality rate as high as 50 percent, according to Scott J. Haugen, M.D., an interventional cardiologist at Group Health Bellevue Medical Center and co-medical director of the TAVR program at Overlake Medical Center.
Doctors hope to eventually use TAVR for patients who are not at high risk, and are awaiting results of current studies to find out if the procedure can be used more widely.