FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Washington Regional Medical Center recently became the first hospital in Northwest Arkansas to treat patients with severe aortic stenosis using the next-generation, self-expanding Evolut FX Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) System, a minimally invasive alternative to open heart surgical aortic valve replacement.

Washington Regional first began performing TAVR procedures in 2018 and is the highest patient volume TAVR center in Northwest Arkansas. Procedures using the new Evolu FX were performed by a team led by Zubair Ahmed, MD; Charles Cole, MD; and Russell Wood, MD, all of Washington Regional Walker Heart Institute, according to a press release.

Dr. Ahmed said this new valve system offers benefits to both patients and physicians.

“The flexible platform allows precise placement with easier deliverability to reduce complications. This newer system also allows physicians to visualize better valve implantation, which translates to better valve function and outcomes for patients,” Ahmed said.

According to Washington Regional, transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) is a treatment option for patients with severe aortic stenosis, which causes the aortic valve to become stiff and have difficulty opening and closing and makes the heart work harder to pump blood to the rest of the body. Severe aortic stenosis often reduces a patient’s quality of life and limits their daily activities.

If left untreated, patients can die from heart failure in as little as two years. Transcatheter aortic valve replacement is a minimally invasive valve replacement technique. A catheter is inserted into a blood vessel, usually in the patient’s leg or neck, and threaded into the heart to replace the aortic valve without opening the chest.

This procedure may be an option for patients who are at higher risk of complications during open heart surgery as determined by their physician. The American Heart Association offers more information about TAVR here.