Concerningly, of the estimated 66,500 Australians living with aortic stenosis, 9 in 10 are not undergoing treatment each year for the potentially life-threatening disease.
If not identified, or treated effectively, aortic stenosis – a narrowing of the heart valve which makes the heart work harder to pump blood around the body – may claim the lives of more than 50 per cent of those with living with severe symptomatic aortic stenosis, within two years.
Fortunately, the inclusion of transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI) on Medicare from July 1, 2022, will expand access to the minimally invasive treatment for all Australians with aortic stenosis at surgical risk.
TAVI offers significant benefits over surgery, including reduced procedure time, less time in hospital, a shorter recovery period, lower risk of complications, improved quality of life, and extended life expectancy.
Compared with open heart surgery, the most recent data reveals TAVI results in 46 per cent lower rates of death, stroke and re-hospitalisation within the first year of the procedure.
According to Dr Ronen Gurvitch, Interventional Cardiologist, Royal Melbourne Hospital, and One Heart Cardiology, Melbourne, aortic stenosis is under-diagnosed, and under-treated in Australia.
“Given aortic stenosis most commonly affects those aged 65 years and over, the symptoms of the disease are often mistakenly confused with the normal signs of ageing, such as gradual reduction in exercise capacity, shortness of breath, fatigue (tiredness) and tightness, or pain in the chest.”
Gardening enthusiast & grandfather,
Brian, 70, Sydney, underwent the TAVI procedure to treat his heart valve disease in May 2022, and has already noticed substantial improvement in his daily life.
“Before having TAVI, I was constantly out of breath, and just couldn’t do the things I wanted to.
“I had stress and anxiety imagining all the things I wanted to do but couldn’t, because of my heart valve disease,” said Brian.
“I had open heart surgery years ago for another condition, and the difference in recovery between that and the TAVI is night and day. With TAVI, I was home the day after the procedure and noticed an immediate difference – my shortness of breath was gone!
“I’m now able to keep up with my grandkids and finish all the jobs around the house I couldn’t do before. I’m looking forward to finally getting back to doing the things I enjoy doing,” Brian said.
The rate of severe aortic stenosis is increasing in Australia, with an estimated 10,000 additional people affected each year. A heart murmur – often the first sign of aortic stenosis – can be detected by a doctor listening to the heart with a stethoscope.
CEO and founder of Hearts4heart, Tanya Hall, Melbourne, has a simple, but crucial message for every Australian aged 65 years and over.
“If you’re aged 65 years and over, ask your doctor to listen to your heart with a stethoscope as part of an annual heart check. It could literally save your life.
“Hearts4heart welcomes the new Medicare item, allowing all patients living with severe aortic stenosis, to access TAVI as a minimally invasive treatment option,” said Ms Hall.
Australians aged 65 years and over should ask their doctor to listen to their heart for the signs of aortic stenosis. For information about aortic stenosis and treatment options, such as transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI), head to newheartvalve.com/au.