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What is transcatheter aortic-valve implantation (TAVI)?

A recently published study (known as PARTNER) may offer future hope to patients with severe aortic stenosis, a condition in which the heart's aortic valve does not open fully and blood flow is restricted.

Patients with severe aortic stenosis who were considered too high-risk for open-heart surgery were treated using a minimally invasive procedure called transcatheter aortic-valve implantation (TAVI). TAVI is performed through a relatively small incision in the groin or through a small incision on the left side of the chest, as compared to the large incision in the middle of the chest required for standard aortic valve surgery. The TAVI procedure uses an artificial aortic valve made from a piece of a cow's valve. The artificial valve is positioned within the diseased valve and expanded with a balloon.

The whole procedure takes about 90 minutes, whereas open-heart surgery typically takes six hours or more. Because TAVI is a minimally invasive procedure, the recovery time is also much shorter than open-heart surgery—often a few days instead of months. The high-risk patients in the PARTNER trial who underwent TAVI had lower death rates but higher stroke rates than those who underwent conventional medical therapy.

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