Saving the smallest hearts

Health Watch

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (Ivanhoe Newswire) — When you think of heart problems you usually think of older men and women. But 40,000 children are born each year with congenital heart defects … everything from a hole in their heart to faulty valves. Now, a new FDA approved procedure is giving some kids a new chance at living a long, healthy, normal life without the risk that comes with open heart surgery.

Mikelyn Jones told Ivanhoe, “My chickens, I like to hold them. They’re sometimes sassy.”

Sassy, just like nine-year-old Mikelyn.

“I’m a normal girl, but I just have a different heart,” continued Mikelyn.

Mikelyn was born with a heart defect called tetralogy of fallot. Hard to pronounce, but what it means is her pulmonary heart valve wasn’t working.

“She actually was born blue. So very blue. She had her first open heart surgery when she was seven days old,” Angela Jones, Mikelyn’s mom, told us.

Mikelyn has had two open heart surgeries. This time around, Robert Gray, MD, an interventional pediatric cardiologist at the University of Utah Health & Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital, was able to do a minimally-invasive procedure using a newly FDA approved pediatric melody heart valve to replace the old one.

“It’s from a neck vein of a cow and it’s a natural valve and it takes about a hundred to 200 of these veins to find one valve that works,” shared Dr. Gray.

The valve is sewn inside a catheter, inserted into a vein in the groin or neck. Once inside the heart, it replaces the old valve.

“The leaflets inside the valve start working right away and we can do this without stopping the heart without going on cardiopulmonary bypass and without opening the chest,” Dr. Gray continued.

The new procedure cuts recovery time from six to eight weeks to just a few days. No scar, no restrictions. The only recovery Mikelyn has now is healing from her latest bike accident.

The new less invasive alternative to open heart surgery may also reduce the number of surgeries these kids will need over their lifetime. Kids as young as four or five years old can have the melody heart valve. On average, it will need to be replaced every seven years.

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