Health Watch: No More Open Heart

August 4, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
Thousands of patients have open-heart surgery each year. But when the doctor's work is done, the patient has a long road to recovery. Now, a new procedure is eliminating the traumatic surgery for some young patients.After three open heart surgeries, nothing scares Daniel Rodriguez anymore. But last year, he needed another surgery to widen the valve that had kept him alive for 11 years.

"He was exhausted and couldn't get through his day and he started to look sickly," says Evan Zahn, M.D., a cardiologist at Miami Children's Hospital in Miami, Fla.

But another open-heart surgery?

"Surgery is a fantastic thing, but it doesn't come without a heavy price to pay," Dr. Zahn says.

Pain, scarring and one to two weeks in the hospital made open-heart less than ideal.

"I was concerned, you know, him being older, you know, this is going to be harder on him," Daniel's mother, Melanie, says.

So Daniel became the second person in the United States to receive a Melody pulmonary valve.

"It is the first valve that's been put out there that can be actually placed into the heart without open heart surgery or any type of surgery at all," Dr. Zahn explains.

The jugular vein of a cow is sewn into a metal stent with a small balloon inside. Doctors go in via catheter through a small incision in the groin. Once the stent is in the correct position, the balloon is inflated, widening the valve.

"Right when I woke up from the surgery, I noticed I could take deeper breaths and stuff," Daniel says.

"I walked into his room to see how he was doing and he just looked at me with his big smile that you know he has and he just sorta says, 'It must have worked 'cause I feel great!'" Dr. Zahn recalls.

"That was a one night stay as opposed to several days after open heart surgery," Melanie says.

Getting Daniel back home sooner?

"Only one day in there was great because nobody likes going to the doctor," Daniel says.

And on to scarier things.

Doctors think the Melody valve should last patients 10 to 15 years, but further tests will tell. When another procedure is needed, surgeons can use the same entry way again. The melody is still in FDA trials at three locations across the country, but Dr. Zahn says good results so far mean it should be widely available in a couple of years.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
Congenital Heart Institute at Miami Children's Hospital
Miami Children's Hospital Website
(305) 662-8301


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