Rex Healthcare, part of UNC Health Care, plans to offer transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), a minimally-invasive procedure to treat patients with severe symptomatic aortic stenosis.

The procedure will be offered to older patients who are not well enough to undergo open-heart surgery for aortic valve replacement. The aorta is the main artery carrying blood out of the heart; blood flows from the heart through the aortic valve into the aorta. In aortic stenosis, the aortic valve does not open fully, decreasing blood flow from the heart. TAVR is an alternative to open-chest surgery; the TAVR device and procedure have been studied extensively in the United States and have been used successfully in Europe since 2002.

During the TAVR procedure, doctors guide an artificial heart valve through a catheter that has been placed into the femoral artery, between the thigh and the heart. The technology was developed by Edwards Lifesciences.

Dr. Lance Landvater, co-medical director of Rex Cardiothoracic Surgery Specialists, is leading a team of cardiothoracic surgeons, interventional cardiologists, non-invasive cardiologists and other specialists to implant the device and establish a new UNC/Rex Heart Valve Center. The team also includes Dr. Andy Kiser, chief of the UNC Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery; Dr. Christian Gring, Dr. Matthew Hook and Dr. R. Lee Jobe of Wake Heart & Vascular; Dr. Timothy Gruebel of American Anesthesiology of North Carolina; and Dr. James Zidar, president of Rex Heart & Vascular Specialists.

The new heart valve center at Rex plans to perform the first TAVR procedure in May.

To learn more about the procedure, click here.