It was the middle of basketball season when one 13-year-old player got devastating news: he needed a pulmonary valve replacement. His team thought this meant the end of his season; replacing a leaky valve requires cutting open the chest, a week in the hospital, and at least two months to recover before getting back to strenuous physical activity. Instead, this player got his valve fixed without missing a single game.
He played in a tournament one weekend, checked into Primary Children’s Hospital during the week, received a Melody Valve replacement, and walked out of the hospital the next day. The very next weekend, he suited up and played in another game. The only sign he even underwent a procedure was a small bandaid® he wore under his shorts.
So what’s the magic behind the Melody Valve procedure that has greatly improved the lives of patients with congenital heart disease? It turns out there is nothing supernatural going on, just the innovative use of a cow’s jugular vein that allows patients to have their pulmonary valves replaced without open-heart surgery. The procedure uses a cow’s incredibly strong, thin vein valve that’s sewn into a small metal stent. A catheter holding this “Melody Valve” is fished through a patient’s vein and guided to the heart, where a small balloon is inflated to open up the new valve. The catheter is then removed from the body and the Melody Valve immediately becomes the new pulmonary valve.
The Melody Valve was developed in Europe in the 2000s and approved for use in the United States in January of 2010. The Heart Center at Primary Children’s Hospital started performing the procedure later that same year and remains the only congenital heart center in a five-state area with Melody Valve capabilities. Having performed the procedure over 60 times on patients ranging in age from five to 64, the Heart Center has one of the busiest Melody Valve programs in the country. The game-changing procedure fits perfectly with the Heart Center’s commitment to innovation and to finding cutting-edge techniques that improve treatment and speed recovery.
The Melody Valve procedure is a giant leap forward for patients with pulmonary valve problems. Previously, these patients would have to undergo open-heart surgery every 10 years or so to repair their faulty valves. With each new surgery, the surgeon would be dealing with more scar tissue, making the surgeries increasingly complex and requiring more and more recovery time for patients. The Melody Valve procedure allows the Heart Center to repair pulmonary valves without surgery, saving patients from the stress and strain of multiple major surgeries over the course of their lifetimes.
The speedy recovery from this minimally invasive procedure is best exemplified by another one of the Heart Center’s patients, this one a 62-year-old woman. After being told she wasn’t a good candidate for surgery, she came to the Heart Center for a Melody Valve procedure. Two weeks after the procedure, she felt so much better that she was able to go dancing with her husband–something she hadn’t been able to do for years. This is just another great example of how the Melody Valve is music to the ears of all those with pulmonary valve problems.