Who still gets SAVR?
Given the inherent attraction TAVR holds over SAVR for patients, heart-valve teams will need to convey the right message to patients who may be better served with surgical replacement despite the added trauma and recovery time it produces.
“The decision to perform TAVR or SAVR should now be based on a patient’s expected longevity as well as patient preferences and values, and not on the patient’s estimated surgical risk, except for the highest-risk patients in whom TAVR is recommended,” said Dr. Otto. A patient’s age, comorbidities, and overall life expectancy now move to center stage when deciding the TAVR or SAVR question, along with individual anatomic considerations, the possible need for concurrent procedures, and of course what the patient prefers including their willingness and ability to remain on lifelong anticoagulation if they receive a durable mechanical valve. Dr. Otto outlined this new landscape of the heart-valve team’s decision making process in an editorial she recently published () that accompanied publication of and the trial.
“For some patients there will be clear benefit from one approach, but for many patients, particularly those at low surgical risk, both TAVR and SAVR are technically feasible. For these patients it’s essential that the heart-valve team provide unbiased information to guide patients,” Dr. Otto said. The ideal person to provide this unbiased presentation of the pros and cons would be a cardiologist experienced with valve disease but not actively involved in performing valve-replacement procedures.
A big issue younger patients must confront is what remains unknown about long-term durability of TAVR valves. Dr. Otto called this “the most important missing piece of information. We only have robust data out to about 5 years. If TAVR valve will be durable for 15-20 years, then TAVR will become preferred even in younger patients.”
Even after TAVR became available to intermediate-risk patients in, the median age of U.S. patients undergoing TAVR hardly budged, and has recently stood at about 81 years, Dr. Carroll noted. “With low-risk patients, we expect to see this change,” as more patients now who are in their 70s, 60s, and younger start to routinely undergo TAVR. As more younger patients with life expectancies on the order of 30 years consider TAVR, issues of valve durability “enter the discussion,” he said. “We need data to 10, 15 years,” and in its low-risk approval the FDA mandated manufacturers to follow these patients for at least 10 years. Although valve-in-valve replacement of failed TAVR valves is an option, it’s not always a smooth fix with the potential for prosthesis-patient mismatch ( ) and resulting hemodynamic problems, Dr. Carroll said.
Bicuspid-valve replacement with TAVR is another big, largely because these patients were excluded from the TAVR trials. A recently published analysis of the 2,726 patients with a bicuspid aortic valve who underwent TAVR anyway in routine U.S. practice between June 2015 and November 2018 and were in the TVT Registry (about 3% of all TAVR patients during this period) showed that these patients had similar mortality, compared with the tricuspid-valve patients, but a significantly increased stroke rate ( ). The authors concluded that a prospective, randomized study of TAVR, compared with SAVR, is needed for these patients, and many others in the field agree.
As availability of TAVR grows and public awareness increases, heart-valve teams may find it challenging sometimes to help patients understand the upsides of SAVR for their individual clinical needs when TAVR is superficially so much more attractive.
“The desire to avoid the prolonged hospitalization and recovery from SAVR is a huge driver of patient preference,” noted Dr. Carroll.
“It’s hard to tell a 55 year old to think about another procedure they may need when they are 65 or 70 if they undergo TAVR now rather than SAVR. They don’t want open-heart surgery; I hear that all the time,” Dr. Cleveland said. “If I were a 55-year-old aortic valve patient I’d strongly consider TAVR, too.”
Financial consideration at the site performing the interventions can also be a factor. “Differential costs and payments associated with SAVR and TAVR create different financial incentives for health systems between these two procedures,” noted Dr. Vemulapalli. “There likely needs to be a system that creates equal incentives to do SAVR or TAVR so that the decision between them can come down to just the patient and heart-valve team. We need further data and decision aids to help better define which patients will likely do better with SAVR and which with TAVR.”