The most recent European Association of Echocardiog raphy/American Society of Echocardiography guidelines35 recommend the use of TEE whenever there is doubt about the anatomy of the aortic root, aortic annulus size or number of AV cusps. There is considerable debate about which imaging modality is the “gold standard” for the evaluation of the aortic annulus and root at this time. Transthoracic echocardiography alone has been shown to underestimate the native annulus size by up to 15% or 1.36 mm (95% confidence interval, 1.75–4.48 mm).36 There is some evidence that 3-dimensional (3D) computed tomography (CT) as well as real-time 3D echocardiography may be more accurate.37 Three-dimensional TEE is considered more accurate in measuring the true aortic annulus diameter38 (via proper alignment of the short and long axes of the AV), and the distance of the coronary ostia from the aortic annulus (to avoid occlusion from the valve stent)34 and for the quick evaluation of the degree of (any) paraprosthetic aortic regurgitation after deployment. Adherence to sizing variables defined by cross-sectional 3D-TEE was associated with a lower incidence of paraprosthetic aortic regurgitation than conventional 2-dimensional TEE cutoffs and is advocated whenever good cross-sectional CT data are not available39 Multidetector CT measurements of the aortic annulus derive aortic annular diameter that is larger than the TEE-derived diameter by 1.5 ± 1.6 mm and may become the ideal technique for TAVR sizing.38 Aortic root assessment with cardiac magnetic resonance imaging may be a valid imaging alternative in patients unsuitable for CT.40
Transthoracic echocardiography is an alternative if sedation is chosen, but this may not allow such rapid diagnosis because of difficulties with acquiring good quality echocardiographic windows during the procedure and with the patient in the supine position. Intracardiac echocardiography31 may be an option, but experience with this technique is limited.
Invasive monitoring should be considered standard because cardiovascular compromise may be rapid and unpredictable. This should include invasive arterial and central venous pressures. The use of pulmonary artery catheters in this setting may be considered controversial by some, but may be particularly useful in patients with moderate or severe pulmonary hypertension.41 Many of the TAVR patients have baseline pulmonary hypertension. Despite the sustained decrease of pulmonary artery systolic pressure after surgical AVR or TAVR,42 the presence of pulmonary hypertension was found to be an independent risk factor for mortality in TAVR patients, irrespective of TF or another approach.43 In a small cohort, severe pulmonary hypertension (pulmonary artery systolic pressure > 60) had an odds ratio of 7.56 and right ventricular dysfunction had an odds ratio of 3.55 for all-cause mortality at 6 months after TAVR.44 Some have used normothermic femoro-femoral CPB electively in such patients and reported favorable outcomes.45
When performing balloon aortic valvuloplasty or during deployment of a balloon-expandable valve (Edwards Sapien), rapid ventricular pacing is used to arrest cardiac ejection. The heart may take some time to recover from this insult, especially if its function was significantly impaired before TAVR, or if rapid pacing was prolonged because of adjustments to balloon or valve position before inflation. This may necessitate bolus administration of phenylephrine or meteraminol, depending on institutional preference. In an emergent situation, epinephrine (10–20 mcg) may be injected into the aortic root via the pigtail catheter normally used for contrast administration to enable the drug to work more quickly, especially if the temporarily dysfunctional heart is hardly contracting. Other drugs that may be considered in this situation include phenylephrine, norepinephrine, or meteraminol. If the heart does not recover quickly (within 30–60 seconds), external cardiac massage should be initiated, and this may have the effect of pumping the inotrope and restoring cardiac function. However, if this is not successful, urgent consideration should be given to the institution of CPB. In most instances, this can be performed quickly by placement of peripheral venous and arterial cannulas over guidewires already in situ in the femoral vessels. In some cases, sternotomy may be required; preoperative discussion of the appropriateness of such an invasive intervention in an emergency situation is therefore essential.
The incidence of procedural complications depends on the access chosen for TAVR and on the type of implanted valve.
Assessing the minimum diameter of the arterial access vessel is essential for proper patient selection. A relatively compliant nondiseased artery can accommodate a vascular sheath that is slightly larger (1–2 mm) than its internal diameter. By general consensus, the TF-TAVR is the most popular approach and the femoral vessels are usually percutaneously accessed. In relatively small, calcified, or tortuous vessels, the risk of injury is significant; major vascular complications include dissection, rupture, or pseudoaneurysm. In patients deemed to be at increased risk of vascular injury due to anatomical considerations, surgical exposure may be used to facilitate surgical control and repair if required. The incidence of major vascular complications in the PARTNER A randomized controlled trial comparing TAVR and surgery was 11% in the TAVR group, compared with 3.2% in the surgical group (P < 0.001),5 but without a statistically significant difference in mortality (3.4% in the TAVR group and 6.5% in the surgical group, P = 0.07).
In the first few years after the introduction of TAVR, the incidence of vascular complications was reported to be as high as 27%; vascular dissection, perforation, and hematoma at the access site were encountered in up to 15.3% of the patients and associated with significantly higher 30-day rates of complications, and 30-day and 1-year mortality.46–48 However, the size of the delivery systems has been reduced over the last 2 years to less than 5.5 mm outer diameter (depending on manufacturer and size of valve to be implanted) with a concurrently decreased incidence of access-related vascular damage to as low as 3.1% in a more recent European registry.22 Hayashida et al.50 reported a sheath:femoral artery ratio of >1.05 as predictive for major vascular complication and 30-day mortality in 102 patients undergoing TF-TAVR with either the CoreValve or the Edwards Sapien valve.49
Intrapericardial bleeding is possible at any point during the procedure due to injury to the heart or to the aorta, either as a result of wire perforation or annular rupture. Early detection of pericardial effusion is easier and earlier detected with echocardiography (Video 2, Supplemental Digital Content 2, http://links.lww.com/AA/A984; Video 3, Supplemental Digital Content 3, http://links.lww.com/AA/A985; Video 4, Supplemental Digital Content 4, http://links.lww.com/AA/A986). Life-threatening bleeding into the pericardium that may occur in up to 13% of patients during or immediately after TAVR is more common with a TA approach (odds risk 3.7, 95% confidence interval 1.73%–7.9%, P = 0.01) and is associated with significantly more frequent 1-year mortality (odds risk 2.54, 95% confidence interval 1.3%–4.9%, P = 0.002).50 Arterial bleeding from annular rupture will most likely require emergent sternotomy and surgical control. On the other hand, venous bleeding, which may occur as a result of injury from the pacing wire, may be managed by percutaneous pericardial drainage and close observation.
The conduction system passes superficially through the interventricular septum immediately below the AV. After conventional AVR, mechanical trauma, tissue edema, and local inflammation at the level of the aortic annulus and the neighboring atrioventricular node and bundle of His may induce conduction disturbances and increase the need for implantation of a pacemaker. In the PARTNER trial cohorts (Edwards SAPIEN), the reported incidence of permanent pacemaker implantation in TAVR was only slightly higher than surgical AVR (5.7% vs 5%, P = 0.68)5 and lower than medical therapy (4.5% vs 7.8%, P = 0.27).4
Conductance disturbances leading to permanent pacemaker implantation are more common for the CoreValve than for the Edwards Sapien valve. The incidence for permanent pacemaker implantation ranges from 4.9%–6% for the Edwards Sapien valve to 23.4%–39% for the CoreValve.51–53 The CoreValve stent is longer and extends inside the LV outflow tract (LVOT) where it can compress the conduction system. A higher implantation technique for the CoreValve seems to decrease the risk for conductance disturbances.51
Left bundle-branch block with left axis deviation, an interventricular septal dimension >17 mm at end-diastole, or increased baseline thickness of the native noncoronary cusp AV (>8 mm) are considered predictors for the need of a new cardiac pacemaker.52 Conduction disturbances can occur up to 72 hours after implantation; therefore, patients should be closely monitored for up to 3 days after TAVR. However, based on 1-year follow-up from a single center, the periprocedural permanent pacemaker insertion does not seem to affect clinical outcomes adversely.53
Although the incidence of ongoing ventricular fibrillation after rapid ventricular pacing is very rare, external defibrillator paddles should be attached to every patient before the procedure so that defibrillation may be performed without delay after rapid ventricular pacing if the rhythm fails to normalize.54
During TAVR, there is a risk that the valve is incorrectly implanted into the aorta and the sealing cuff of the TAVR valve is not apposed to the aortic annular tissue; most commonly, the valve is placed somewhat too low (in the LVOT) or too high (in the aortic root) in the aorta. Exact positioning of the valve is important: if too low in the LVOT, it may impinge on the anterior mitral leaflet; if it is too high in the aorta, a coronary artery annulus may be blocked leading to myocardial ischemia and potential cardiovascular collapse (Video 1, Supplemental Digital Content 1, http://links.lww.com/AA/A983; Video 5, Supplemental Digital Content 5, http://links.lww.com/AA/A987; Video 6, Supplemental Digital Content 6, http://links.lww.com/AA/A988).
Coronary ostial occlusion occurred in 44 of 6668 patients (0.66%) in a recently published large registry.55 If the latter occurs, coronary stenting may be attempted and can be life-saving. Three-dimensional TEE may be the most accurate method of measuring the distance between the aortic annulus and the left main coronary ostium before implantation.56 The registry data reported that percutaneous coronary intervention was attempted in 75% of the cases and was successful in 82%; 30-day mortality was 41%. After a median follow-up of 12 (2 to 18) months, the cumulative mortality rate was 45.5%, and there were no cases of stent thrombosis or reintervention. Some may preemptively insert a stent inside the coronary ostia to avoid inadvertent obstruction from the valve prosthesis,57 or alternatively a wire can be placed before TAVR deployment to allow rapid stent placement in an emergent situation.
Incorrect positioning along with undersizing, incomplete expansion (Video 7, Supplemental Digital Content 7, http://links.lww.com/AA/A989), or asymmetric calcification (Video 8, Supplemental Digital Content 8, http://links.lww.com/AA/A990; Video 9, Supplemental Digital Content 9, http://links.lww.com/AA/A991; Video 10, Supplemental Digital Content 10, http://links.lww.com/AA/A992) may result in paraprosthetic aortic regurgitation. Intraoperative TEE echocardiography may identify calcification of the commissure between the right coronary and noncoronary cusps and the area cover index as independent predictors of significant paravalvular aortic regurgitation after TAVR.58 If significant aortic regurgitation is detected after valve implantation, either by fluoroscopy/aortography or TEE (Fig. 9, Video 11, Supplemental Digital Content 11, http://links.lww.com/AA/A993; Video 12, Supplemental Digital Content 12, http://links.lww.com/AA/A994), consideration should be given to a second balloon dilation of the prosthetic valve (only possible in the case of the Edwards Sapien valve). Such a procedure may cause further complications because it may lead to valve leaflet disruption, but if carefully performed, it may improve valve function and reduce paravalvular regurgitation.
Moderate or severe residual aortic regurgitation is much more common than after surgical AVR, occurs in 11.7% (95% confidence interval 9.6–14.1) of the patients,59 and is an independent predictor of mid- to long-term mortality (hazard ratio: 1.68 [95% confidence interval 1.21–1.44, P < 0.01] for the Edwards Sapien valve,60 or 4.89, [95% confidence interval 3.95–15.81, P < 0.001] for the CoreValve).61
Inappropriate sizing of the implanted valve is also a risk for valve malpositioning, and may, in the worst-case scenario, lead to retrograde embolization into the LV or antegrade embolization (Video 13, Supplemental Digital Content 13, http://links.lww.com/AA/A995; Video 14, Supplemental Digital Content 14, http://links.lww.com/AA/A996) into the aorta. Prosthetic valve malpositioning may occur during deployment if the heart continues to eject during rapid ventricular pacing (Video 9, Supplemental Digital Content 9, http://links.lww.com/AA/A991). Therefore, correct function of the temporary pacemaker should be ensured and the invasive pressure tracing checked to exclude continued ventricular ejection before implantation of the valve. In addition, during rapid ventricular pacing, the temporary pacemaker should be used in a fixed mode with no sensing and maximum output to minimize the risk of ventricular ejection.
The incidence of stroke after TAVR has declined since the inception of the procedure, from 7.8% to 2.1%–2.8%.62 When compared to conventional surgical AVR or medical treatment, TAVR is associated with a higher incidence of neurological events. Neither the approach, TF or TA, nor device are associated with the risk of neurological events, despite the different rate of high intensity transient signals recorded with transcranial Doppler.63 The etiology of stroke in TAVR patients is multifactorial: atherotic material from the ascending aorta or arch; calcific material from the native AV; thromboembolism from the catheters used in the procedure; and air embolism during LV cannulation, prolonged hypotension, or dissection of brachiocephalic vessels. In the PARTNER trial, the incidence of 30-day major stroke was not statistically different between TAVR and surgical AVR (3.8% vs 2.1%, P = 0.20), but the central nervous system-associated morbidity was higher in TAVR patients (5.5% vs 2.4%, P = 0.04).4 Similarly, Panchal et al.64 reported a higher incidence of neurological morbidity at 66 weeks among 1426 patients from randomized registries, while surgical AVR was “protective” because it was associated with a risk reduction of 0.56 (95% confidence interval 0.35–0.88, P = 0.01). The miniaturization of the newer version of prostheses may lead to a decrease in the incidence of neurologic complications and a number of debris/calcium-capturing devices, currently under investigation, may further reduce the incidence of stroke.
Renal morbidity in TAVR patients is frequent and may require hemodialysis for treatment. A retrospective series (N = 213) reported an incidence of 11.7% of acute kidney injury, an independent predictor of postoperative mortality, and 1.4% need for hemodialysis. However, among patients with chronic kidney failure, acute kidney injury and need for hemodialysis were lower in TAVR than in surgical AVR.67 TAVR was not associated with more frequent renal injury in the PARTNER cohorts.4,5
There is no doubt that demand for TAVR is increasing rapidly, and that the procedure poses unique demands for the cardiovascular anesthesiologist. Ideally, the anesthesiologist should be involved in patient selection as well as management during and immediately after the procedure because he/she has a unique and vital role on the heart team. For the TF approach, the decision between GA and conscious sedation is not straightforward. The intraoperative use of TEE however may be advantageous in terms of valve positioning and detection of complications, and would necessitate GA. Randomized controlled trials in progress or planned should determine whether the use of TAVR in younger patients with fewer comorbidities should be permitted, and indeed whether TAVR becomes more prevalent than surgical AVR in the medium to long-term future.
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