Children's Offers a Nonsurgical Heart Valve Replacement Option

Congenital heart defects are the most common birth defect worldwide, according to the American Heart Association . When the defect involves a serious problem with one or more of the heart's valves, they need to be replaced surgically. These valves wear out over time and must be replaced. Until now, this meant many open heart surgeries during a child's life.

Seattle Children's was one of just five children's hospitals in the nation - and the only one in the western United States - to take part in the clinical trial of the Melody transcatheter valve.

Dr. Tom Jones , director of the cardiac catheterization laboratories at Children's, is part of an elite group of doctors who were chosen to offer this investigational heart valve to their patients.

Doctors can now replace valves by placing a catheter (a thin plastic tube) through a tiny incision at the groin. Patients are spared another open heart surgery. This procedure involves less risk of complications, and patients heal much faster than from open heart surgery.

"For many children who may not be able to tolerate another open heart surgery, this new therapy offers tremendous hope," says Jones.

During the five-year clinical trial, 27 patients from five western states received the Melody transcatheter valve at Children's. All of these were successful, and none of the patients needed to come back to the hospital due to problems from the implant.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the Melody transcatheter valve in early 2010.