Dell Children’s helps teen avoid open heart surgery


Dell Children’s is the first in Central Texas to offer Medtronic’s Melody® Transcatheter Pulmonary Valve – a non-invasive way to fix a heart valve that allows for shorter recovery time, less cost, and less pain.

The Melody valve procedure is a heart catheterization procedure. Cardiologists replace the pulmonary valve — the valve between the right side of heart and the lungs — through a catheter placed in the leg.

“This really is an extraordinary medical advancement, because patients are able to avoid open heart surgery and go home the next morning instead,” says Byron Holt, MD, Chief of Cardiology at Dell Children’s. In contrast, a typical hospital stay for open heart surgery is at least a week, Holt says. Dell Children’s is part of Ascension, the largest nonprofit health system in the U.S. and the world’s largest Catholic health system.

Meet Alyson Hunter, future nurse

Thirteen-year-old Alyson Hunter was born with tetralogy of fallot, the most common complex congenital heart condition. She had her first surgery when she was two-months-old, another at 11 months old, and one more at 7 years old.

Alyson was supposed to have another surgery at age 13. Instead, she underwent the Melody TPV procedure on a Thursday, went home the next morning, and was back in school on the following Monday.

A middle school cheerleader who loves to sing and dance, Alyson says she’s inspired by the health professionals who have taken care of her since her infancy, and wants to be a nurse someday.

“She doesn’t let her heart condition stop her from living her life,” said Cammie Olah, Alyson’s mother. “I’m so proud of her and happy we could be a part of this advancement in medical science.”

Details about the Melody valve

First approved as a therapy by the FDA in 2015[1], the Melody TPV is an artificial valve made from a cow’s vein and sewn into a small metal frame. Interventional cardiologists place it inside a deflated balloon at the end of a thin hollow tube (catheter) and insert it into the heart through a small incision in the groin. They inflate the balloon to open the pulmonary valve and then remove the catheter.

Candidates for this procedure are patients who have already had at least one open-heart surgery on the pulmonary valve.

“This is just another example of where our field is going – making things smaller, less invasive. We found a way to replace a valve in the cath lab without the need for open heart surgery and we’ll continue to see that trend,” Holt said.

Children born with heart defects sometimes require multiple surgeries during their lifetime. The use of the Melody TPV can delay the time when a patient needs additional open heart surgery and reduce the total number of open heart surgeries a patient needs.

Learn more about the Regional Heart Center at Dell Children’s.