“This opens the door for a lot of patients,” Delaney said. He noted, however, that some patients may still not be qualified based on their anatomy or their need for other surgical fixes. Doctors examined seven patients and accepted four to receive the Harmony valve.
The Harmony offers another benefit as well, he said. Now that it’s in place and provides an even landing zone, medics could place a Melody valve inside Goans’ Harmony valve when it eventually loses its function.
“No biological valve lasts a lifetime,” said Delaney. “They tend to last around 10 to 15 years.”
The valve itself is made of tissue from a pig that is attached to a flexible metal frame that opens once it is delivered through the catheter. The valves are sized to fit each recipient by medical device manufacturer Medtronic, based on the patient’s cardiac CT scan.
The pulmonary valve normally acts as a one-way door between the right ventricle, the pumping chamber of the heart, and the lungs. Blood travels from the right ventricle through the pulmonary valve to the pulmonary artery, then to the lungs, where it takes in oxygen to deliver it to the rest of the body.
Goans said her pulmonary valve at the time of her childhood surgery was the size of a pinhole. The blood has just flowed. Doctors told her parents that she might need another surgery.