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Health Information Healing Heart Valves With Less Heartache

Interventional cardiologists at Rush are offering a new, minimally invasive way to help people who typically face a lifetime of heartache: those with a narrowed or missing pulmonary valve.
People with this problem need to have a donor conduit — a valve attached to an artery — placed to bridge the right ventricle to the pulmonary arteries.

Donor conduits generally last less than a decade — often only a few years — because calcium buildup causes them to become narrowed or leaky. This means a patient has to undergo multiple, invasive open heart surgeries. Unfortunately, every time a patient has open heart surgery, additional scar tissue develops, making each successive procedure riskier and more difficult. Open heart surgery also brings considerable pain, possible illness and lengthy recovery times.

Rush is the first hospital in the region to offer a new way to place these conduits that can help patients delay — or avoid — repeated open heart procedures: the Melody Transcatheter Pulmonary Valve. The Melody valve is implanted using a catheter inserted through a tiny incision. "It's a huge breakthrough that truly improves quality of life for these patients," says Ziyad Hijazi, MD, director of the Rush Center for Congenital and Structural Heart Disease.

Since Melody valve implantation is minimally invasive, patients typically leave the hospital within a day or two, and replacing narrowed or leaky conduits down the road is far easier. "Plus, you can always have open surgery in the future because with this new procedure we don't burn any treatment bridges," says Hijazi.  

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