Heart valve conditions: TAVI makes its mark
Already for years, patients with aortic valve stenosis have been benefitting from a minimally-invasive artificial heart valve replacement surgery called transcatheter aortic valve implantation, or TAVI. This effective procedure is generally gentler and less aggressive than open heart surgery, and has been particularly recommended for patients who have greater risks, due to age, health issues or previous heart surgeries. The TAVI procedure has already been widely used in Europe and the USA, and its numbers are growing. “Whereas in Germany, 637 TAVI procedures were performed in 2008, in 2015 more than 13,100 were done nationwide,” says Prof. Dr. Albrecht Elsäßer, board chair of the German Cardiac Society (DGK), while attending the DGK Heart Days in Berlin.
Studies proved that TAVI can be a recommended treatment method for numerous patients with a clear indication of aortic valve stenosis, in comparison to open heart surgery which may also require the use of an artificial respirator. TAVI, a procedure which was previously an option primarily for at-risk patients, is now being recommended for patients with lower risk indications.
The European Cardiac Society will now use the results of these studies in their new guidelines and incorporate descriptions outlining which patients are suitable for which procedures, which qualifications are required, and which pre-requisites cardiac clinics should fulfill when they perform TAVI operations. And although the number of TAVI procedures is steadily rising, the long-term stability of the artificial valve is still unclear. “I think it is reasonable to assume that in the coming years, TAVI procedures will continue to be considered safe, and that we can perform these procedures on patients with low risks as well,” says Prof. Elsäßer.