The heart care team at UC Davis Health was first in the Sacramento region to offer transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), a less-invasive alternative to open heart surgery for treating aortic valve stenosis.
Nearly eight years later on December 16, the cardiologists, surgeons, nurses, OR staff and imaging specialists who helped launch and expand the program completed case no. 1,000.
“It’s an important milestone for our patients and our team,” said cardiologist Jeffrey Southard, who leads the TAVR program at UC Davis Health. “Our experience with this technology and the outcomes we’ve shown have made us a leading referral center in northern and central California.”
Aortic valve stenosis occurs when calcification hardens and narrows the aortic valve, reducing blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body. The recommended treatment is valve replacement. Surgeons can replace the old valve with a new one through a large incision in the chest. While TAVR involves using catheters to deliver a new valve inside of the old one.
Southard credits the growth in part to research leadership. Through clinical trials, UC Davis cardiologists have been among the first to offer the latest TAVR technologies. They’ve also shaped best practices.
“Data from us and other high-volume centers showed that risks and outcomes with TAVR were similar to or better than other options, in addition to reducing hospital stays and recovery time,” Southard said.
As a result, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration expanded eligibility. TAVR initially was only available to patients unable to have surgery. Today, patients with intermediate or even low risks for surgical complications can be considered for the procedure.
Southard also credits the program’s success to well-coordinated, team-based care. This is especially helpful to patients living in the outlying regions UC Davis Health serves.
“They can get all of their assessments done in one day — from clinical exams to imaging studies — and they have a navigator to help them throughout the process,” Southard said.
Southard expects the technology will continue to diversify, providing more valve options for more patients. UC Davis is currently participating in a trial on the best timing for the procedure.
“The results will help us determine when patients should get TAVR — when stenosis is first diagnosed or when symptoms become problematic,” Southard said.
Cardiovascular medicine specialists and subspecialists at UC Davis Health are passionate about providing the highest level of care for all patients with heart disease. The team includes nationally recognized experts in minimally invasive methods for diagnosing and treating coronary artery disease, valve disease and arrhythmias. UC Davis cardiologists are exceptional clinicians in addition to being leaders in testing next-generation therapies, technologies and procedures that improve outcomes for patients worldwide. For more information about the team and the services they provide, visit the Heart and Vascular Services website.