COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Update Learn More

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

CentraCare care givers have been working around the clock for more than 20 months to care for you, your families and friends during COVID. We are committed to caring for every Minnesotan who needs us, and nothing will prevent us from doing so – even during these never-seen-before times.

The challenge of providing this level of care is that our hospital beds are often full. ERs in all of our hospitals are packed. And our clinical teams are exhausted. Early in the pandemic, our community stepped up in amazing ways to help us. We ask that you again join us in fighting this pandemic together.

How can you help?

  • Please get your COVID vaccines and booster shots. They are proven safe and effective in reducing COVID illness, keeping people out of the hospital, and preventing death.
  • If your situation is not an emergency, please use other care options, including:
  • If this is a medical emergency, call 9-1-1, or visit the ER.

Together, we can do this. Thank you for your support.

Ken Holmen, MD
President and CEO

Aortic Stenosis and TAVR

TAVR (transcatheter aortic valve replacement) is a procedure for people who suffer from severe symptomatic aortic stenosis (narrowing).

What is aortic stenosis?

Aortic stenosis is a common condition caused by the build-up of calcium on the aortic valve’s leaflets (flaps of tissue that open and close to regulate the one-way flow of blood through the aortic valve). This build-up impairs the valve’s ability to fully open and close. As a result, the narrowed valve allows less oxygen-rich blood to flow from the lungs to the brain and rest of the body. If this happens, you may have symptoms like:

  • Severe shortness of breath with activity
  • Chest pain
  • Fatigue
  • Lightheadedness
  • Swelling in both legs
  • Fluid overload (also known as heart failure), which may result in a hospital stay

Severe aortic stenosis will continue to progress, meaning the valve will continue to narrow. Without treatment, it can lead to a weakened heart and eventually death.

How do I know if I need aortic valve replacement?

If you have symptoms that may be related to severe aortic stenosis, or have been diagnosed with this condition, you will be referred to a specialist for further evaluation. The Valve Clinic will help determine if valve replacement is needed and what is the best way to replace the valve, either through traditional open-heart surgery or TAVR.

What is TAVR?

With TAVR, a new heart valve is delivered to the heart through a catheter. The catheter is inserted in the body through the groin. If this access site does not work for you, we can deliver the catheter through an incision by the collarbone, known as alternative access through the subclavian or axillary arteries.

The new heart valve is made of a strong, metal stent frame with leaflets (flaps of tissue) sewn into the inside. During the procedure, your current, faulty heart valve will be opened and pushed against the heart wall. The new valve will take its place by expanding its strong stent frame into the old calcified tissue. The new leaflets will start to work instantly, allowing blood flow out of the heart and into your body to supply the brain, organs and muscles with oxygen. Once TAVR is complete, your symptoms should improve and may even go away.

Who is a TAVR candidate?

People who are at low, moderate or higher risk for complications during open heart surgery may be candidates for TAVR. Candidates will undergo a full evaluation, which includes imaging studies (CT scan, lung function test and angiogram) and consultations with Valve Clinic team members. Once completed, we will make our best recommendations based on your individual situation.

Why undergo TAVR?

In many cases TAVR is an excellent, less invasive option for valve replacement. TAVR has shown to improve symptoms many people encounter daily due to severe aortic stenosis. TAVR decreases the workload of the heart and results in reduced shortness of breath, increased ability to tolerate activity, heightened energy levels and improved fluid balance within the body. It can also reduce the frequency of hospital stays.

For those who have symptoms of severe aortic stenosis, TAVR may be necessary. Without valve replacement, the heart can weaken, and symptoms of heart failure can continue to progress leading to a poor quality of life.

However, TAVR is not always the best option for everyone. Our experienced team will provide a full evaluation and make a recommendation on the best approach for improving your quality of life.

Why choose our program?

Our Valve Clinic started performing TAVR in 2013. We have grown rapidly, completing TAVR procedures on hundreds of patients each year. Our program is well known for its great care and excellent outcomes. In fact, our TAVR program was ranked as “high performing” in 2021 by U.S. News & World Report.

We specialize in alternative access for TAVR, such as subclavian and axillary approaches that other facilities may not offer. Specializing in this approach allows us to provide more options and opportunities for those in need of TAVR to relieve symptoms related to aortic stenosis.

In addition, unlike some other facilities, most of our patients can have the procedure under conscious sedation, meaning they are awake, but sleepy, and no breathing tube or general anesthesia is needed. Doing so can improve outcomes and shorten hospital stays.


  • ACCESS Study – In a national study, research led by the Valve Clinic at CentraCare Heart & Vascular Center demonstrated that alternative vascular (artery) access sites for TAVR can be used safely and successfully, giving more patients an opportunity to have this life-saving procedure.
  • New Heart

If you have questions about our program, we would be happy to assist you. Please call us at 320-293-0750 or email us.