Featured Heart health

I’m on the waitlist for TAVI. Now what?

Senior woman sitting on a chair with her hands on her knee.
Written by Cindi Wheeler

Transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI) – also known as transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) – has quickly become the treatment of choice for elderly patients with severe aortic stenosis (narrowing of the aortic valve). The minimally-invasive procedure offers a treatment option to individuals who are at a higher risk with open-heart surgery. Patients who are offered and consented for the procedure may be put on a waitlist.

Being on a waitlist is never easy, especially if you’re waiting for medical treatment. If you have severe aortic stenosis and are waiting for TAVI, the amount of time you are on a waitlist will vary depending on the number of people waiting and your symptoms.

Below are six general tips to help you maintain your heart while you are waiting, and when you should seek help. Please consult your TAVI team for recommendations specific to your condition.

Limit your fluid intake

Drink less than 2 litres (8 cups) of liquid per day. If you have kidney issues, follow your nephrologist’s advice on how much liquid you can drink per day. Liquid includes water, tea, coffee, juice, shakes, smoothies, soup and Jell-O.

Take a walk

Walk every day, slowly and rest often. If you have difficulty breathing or feel tired, stop and rest.

Limit sodium (salt)

Eat foods low in salt and don’t add salt to your food. Your maximum total salt intake in one day should be 2 grams.

Do not lift, push or pull heavy objects

Lifting, pushing or pulling objects more than 5 kilograms (10 pounds) could increase your heart rate and put strain on your heart. This includes holding children, carrying groceries or a basket of laundry, shovelling snow, using a snow blower and cutting grass.

Take your medications

Take all your medications as prescribed. If you feel your medications need to be changed, please see your family doctor, cardiologist or other specialist before stopping or adjusting medications.

Do not smoke

Smoking makes your heart work harder. It increases your heart rate, narrows blood vessels, raises blood pressure, and reduces the amount of blood, oxygen and nutrients that get to your heart. Second hand smoke can cause the same effects. Ask your doctor or pharmacist for ways of helping you stop or reduce smoking. You may also visit smokershelpline.ca.

When should I seek medical care?

If you experience swelling in your legs, speak with your cardiologist or family doctor. If you experience any of the following symptoms, call 9-1-1 or seek urgent medical care:

  • Fainting
  • Shortness of breath that does not improve after 10 minutes of rest.

Notify the urgent care provider that you are on the waitlist for TAVI.

About the author

Cindi Wheeler

Cindi Wheeler is a nurse practitioner in the TAVI Clinic at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre.