Recently, the Reading Hospital – Tower Health cardiovascular team performed the first carotid transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) in Berks County. Replacing a damaged aortic valve via the carotid artery, located on the side of the neck, is a significant advancement for patients unable to undergo the more common approach through the large artery (femoral) in the thigh. This alternative treatment option provides a lifesaving procedure for patients who are not surgical candidates for the traditional aortic valve replacement or the less invasive transcatheter aortic valve replacement and have no other treatment options.

This procedure can be recommended for the sickest patients with severe aortic stenosis (a narrowing of the heart valves). These patients often suffer from symptoms of fatigue, shortness of breath, and leg swelling. A patient diagnosed with congestive heart failure caused by aortic stenosis may also be eligible.

“This procedure showcases true synergy across the cardiovascular team,” said Eric Elgin, MD, Chief, Division of Cardiology. “The patient is evaluated by the Interventional Cardiology, Cardiac Surgery, and Vascular Surgery teams, and the procedure itself also involves our cath lab team, operating room team, neurology, and many others.”

Christine McCarty, MD, Chief, Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery added, “Though this procedure is only appropriate for a select group of patients, we are proud to offer it at our hospital. It provides an alternative to patients who have no other treatment options available. Recovery time typically requires just one day.”

Whether through the carotid artery, or the more common approach through the femoral artery, TAVR is a minimally invasive procedure that replaces a damaged aortic valve without removing the old, damaged valve. During the procedure, the doctor will make a small incision and insert a short hollow tube called a sheath. The new heart valve is placed onto another plastic tube and delivered through the sheath to the native aortic valve. Once the catheter reaches the patient’s diseased valve, the new valve is delivered into place and secured using the damaged valve leaflets. Reading Hospital has been performing TAVR procedures for 9 years.

Reading Hospital