New valve made from cow's jugular

Cardiac Center at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital offers patients melody valve

HOLLYWOOD, Fla. - Patients needing a new heart valve can now receive one made from a cow's jugular vein, which offers them a non-invasive surgery.

A few months ago, Abigail Aslanidis, 25, was exhausted.

"A couple hours after I get up, I had to go back to bed," said Aslanidis. "I couldn't exercise at all. Just going up a flight of stairs was really tiring."

Aslanidis was born with a defective pulmonary heart valve. The valve was first replaced during a lengthy open heart surgery she had as an infant. In October, doctors told Aslanidis the valve she received as a teen also needed to be replaced.

"This is the main artery that goes out to the lungs. We injected dye, it comes back, and it shouldn't be happening," said Dr. Larry Latson at the Cardiac Center at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital.

Aslanidis' heart was working too hard and becoming enlarged because not enough blood was circulating.

That's where the cows come in: a new melody valve is made from a cow's jugular vein, sewn into a wire stent, and then squeezed into a tiny balloon catheter.

"That catheter is put up through the old valve. The balloon is inflated to inflate the stent and it squashes the old valve out of the way," said Latson.

The procedure is non-invasive, which means less bleeding. That was especially important to Aslanidis, who is a Jehovah's Witness and cannot have blood transfusions.

The melody valve has been used three times at the cardiac center. The first one was used 10 years ago in England and is still working.

"So, the idea behind this is to reduce the number of surgeries that they have to have because we can do this basically as an outpatient procedure," said Latson.

For Aslanidis, the new procedure was a change for the better.

"I had to stay in the hospital for a month, in intensive care, wires everywhere," said Aslanidis. "Now, I was out of the hospital the next day and I was fine."

Aslanidis was able to take a trip a couple weeks after surgery and is now back to exercising.

This year's Tour De Broward benefits the Cardiac Center at Joe DiMaggio Children's Hospital. Click here to sign up for the event in February.

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