Feb. 5, 2011 (United Press International) -- A few U.S. hospitals can implant a pulmonary heart valve in children without open-heart surgery, instead snaking it up a leg, doctors say.
Oregon Health & Science University Doernbecher Children's Hospital in Portland is one of a handful of U.S. health centers qualified to implant a pulmonary heart valve through the leg.
The device -- called the Medtronic (NYSE:MDT) Melody Transcatheter Pulmonary Valve -- has recently been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for this use.
"The remarkable thing about this procedure is that the valve is placed into the beating heart through a vein in the patient's leg," Dr. Laurie Armsby says in a statement. "After the procedure, patients spend a night on the hospital ward and are discharged home the following morning."
So far, four patients have received the device -- a conduit connecting the heart to the lungs.
"Children born with blocked or leaky heart valves can undergo as many as four open-heart surgeries before reaching adulthood to replace conduits that have worn out or that they've outgrown and each time the risk of surgery goes up," Dr. Grant Burch says.
"This device is not going to abolish the need for open-heart surgery, but it does provide a safe and effective alternative to surgery for many children and young adults with congenital heart disease."