The advantages of this method over open-heart surgery include the avoidance of opening the chest and putting patients on a bypass machine.
“The need for sedation and pain medications are significantly less, recovery time is significantly shorter, and they can go back to their normal activity within a day or two,” Aldoss says.
The patient population that will benefit most from the new treatment are individuals who were born with tetralogy of Fallot or other congenital heart diseases that required either surgical or interventional procedures that left them with a leaky pulmonary valve.
In the past, a leaky pulmonary valve was considered relatively benign. But that thinking has changed over the past couple of decades as more evidence suggests that a leaky valve can worsen heart performance, causing irregular heart rhythms and even heart failure. Physicians have become more aggressive in treating those patients and provide them with competent valves.
“It’s a big deal for these patients because they have always been told that they’re going to need surgery, and now they have this new method that can be done way less invasively than what they thought,” Aldoss says. “It’s a great revolution in our field.”
For Bach, who says he’s headed to Utah this summer to test out his new heart valve on a hiking trip, the Harmony valve was a relief because it lessened not only the recovery time of treatment but also the risk.
“Through the whole process, I was just kind of astonished,” he says. “My doctor said that he’s already seen some reshaping in my right ventricle, which means a lot to me.”
Cardiologists have waited for a treatment like this for a long time, Aldoss says, and they’re enthusiastic about the opportunity to offer it to their patients.
“This is really exciting for us. It’s a good feeling when you can provide something for your patients safely and less invasively,” Aldoss says. “In the past, I had to send patients to surgery. Now, I can just offer this to them, and they can go home the next day without a new scar on their chest.”