AHA18: Notes From a Structural Heart Disease Specialist

How can one experience science and scenic beauty together? You know the answer to this, if you attended this year’s annual Scientific Sessions of the American Heart Association (AHA) in the beautiful city of Chicago. AHA18 showcased the latest advancements and studies in the field of cardiovascular medicine and stroke.


AHA Coming Back To The Center Stage

I attended AHA Scientific Sessions for the first time when I was an intern. Science from different sub-specialties of cardiovascular and stroke was truly inspiring and triggered curiosity. However, over the years as I specialized in general cardiology, then interventional cardiology and structural heart disease (SHD), it became increasingly difficult to attend all major scientific meetings every year.  Meetings focused on sub-cardiovascular specialties had taken priority in my schedule in last few years. However, this has changed in 2018. As a SHD specialist I realized the need and importance of a multidisciplinary approach, and science that cuts across various specialties. With widespread adoption of heart team and brain team models, we have realized the importance and benefits of collaboration between physician and surgeons across different specialties.  AHA provides a perfect platform to present and promote such multidisciplinary science.


How Far We Came in the TAVR World

Two separate studies using national administrative databases reported significant reduction in the complications rates associated with transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR).

In the first study, Dr. Sameer Arora and his colleagues at University of North Carolina School of Medicine, Chapel Hill, evaluated the complication rates following both TAVR and surgical aortic valve replacement (SAVR) using the Nationwide Inpatient Sample1.  They included more than 90,000 patients and reported reduction in all cause mortality (4% to 1%), vascular complications (8% to 5%), acute kidney injury (12% to 10%), need for blood transfusions (31% to 10%), and cardiogenic shock (3% to 1%) in patients who underwent TAVR between 2012 and 2015 [P < 0.001 for all].

However, there was an increase in the need for a permanent pacemaker implantation (2% to 12% %; P < 0.001). They also noted trends towards improvement in outcomes with SAVR during same period. Improvement in device profile and valve design, operator experience, and inclusion of patients with lower baseline risk could explain these outcomes with TAVR.

In the second study, Dr. Rajat Kalra, MBChB and colleagues at University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, analyzed rates of new-onset atrial fibrillation and its association with clinical outcomes among patients who underwent TAVR (N=48,715) and SAVR (N=122,765), also using the Nationwide Inpatient Sample from 2012 to 20152. The study reported rates of new-onset atrial fibrillation as 50.4% and 50.1% for TAVR and SAVR respectively. They also noted higher in-hospital mortality, and post procedure stroke, among patients who had new-onset AFib post TAVR or SAVR.

Results from both of these studies are in coherence with findings from clinical trials and our experience with TAVR. However, due to lack of randomization, long term follow up, potential confounders and potential of inappropriate coding, caution should be exercise in extrapolating results of these studies or comparing TAVR with SAVR based on such data.


Flyer from Future

In addition to various studies and presentations from all across the nation and the international scientific community, AHA18 had dedicated sessions for Structural Heart Disease, 3D imaging, and Artificial Intelligence, giving us a glimpse of the near future for SHD. Cardiac imaging is critical to plan and perform any transcatheter based structural heart disease procedure, and 3D printing has potential to revolutionize the treatment planning of patients with SHD as highlighted by Dr. Frank Rybicki (University of Ottawa) during his presentation at AHA18. A potential role of 3D bioprinting for preoperative planning for TAVR and SAVR and the future of this technology was further emphasized in another interesting talk “Personalized Care: Print your own valve,” by Dr. Kamal Khabbaz (Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Harvard Medical School, MA).

My experience during 2018 session has reinforced my believe that AHA has the potential to be ‘The Platform’ to present and promote SHD science.



  1. Arora S. Trends in inpatient complications after transcatheter and surgical aortic valve replacement in the TAVR era. Presented at: AHA 2018. November 11, 2018. Chicago, IL.
  2. Kalra R. New-onset atrial fibrillation after aortic valve replacement: evaluation of a national cohort. Presented at: AHA 2018. November 12, 2018. Chicago, IL.