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Innovative heart procedure at Children's Hospital Colorado providing new hope for families

Posted at 8:11 PM, Mar 17, 2021

COLORADO SPRINGS — An innovative heart procedure at Children's Hospital Colorado is helping children born with heart defects.

The minimally invasive valve replacement at the Children’s Colorado Heart Institute’s Catheterization Lab is preventing children and young adults from open-heart surgeries in the future.

Nine-year-old Teagan Tuttle was only 30 days old when her pediatrician found a heart murmur.

"I have Tetralogy of Fallout," said Teagan Tuttle.

It's a congenital heart defect that required open-heart surgery.

"As a grandparent, it was scary to think of someone so small going through such a major surgery. It was amazing the difference because in the first thirty dates Teagan didn't cry, very quiet, and was a very still child. After the surgery, it was the first time we got to experience the full impact of those lungs," said Tuttle.

After receiving the surgery, she was faced with the very real possibility of needing more in the future. A possibility that turned into a reality when doctors discovered a valve in her heart wasn't working and would need to be replaced.

"I was very uncomfortable and nervous about doing another open heart surgery because of the recovery time and lengthier hospitalization time. Her restrictions would have been significant, she wouldn't have been able to go to school in-person because she wouldn't have been able to carry her backpack for six weeks," said Barns.

That's when she turned to Children's Hospital Colorado for more options.

"I had asked if there were any alternatives to the open-heart surgery and she said they could do a test to see if she could qualify for a catheter surgery. That's when she did, and she was an excellent candidate for that," said Burns.

Dr. Gareth Morgan, Congenital Interventional Cardiologist at Children’s Colorado, says they inserted a cardiac catheter through a vein in her leg then implanted the valve in her heart.

"In cases like Teagan, we were able to give her a new value without opening her chest," said Morgan.

He says the minimally invasive valve replacement is less recovery time and complications.

"Previously, if you were getting a new heart valve you had to do open-heart surgery. That requires a lot of recovery time for anyone, even the fittest young adult or child. When we do this and place a valve like this into the heart with a minimally invasive technique, it means the patient has a brief general aesthetic, wakens up, and usually only has a sore leg," said Morgan.

He says Tuttle was back to dancing and playing with her friends and family within a few days and back to school after the weekend.

"In many cases, children will notice a boost in their energy levels. A lot of these kids with congenital heart disease that hasn't been able to keep up with their peers are able to have better energy levels and ability to participate in sports and other activities," said Morgan. "Her family continues to send me videos of her doing things she previously wasn't able to do."

"I like climbing around a lot. There are a couple of parks where they have a big thing where you can climb on. I recently went to one of these parks to see my cousins, before the six weeks were over, but I managed to climb to the top, and then I jumped down which I wasn't supposed to do," said Tuttle.

While it's not a new procedure, technology and techniques have advanced where it's more accessible for children and young adults.

For families interested in the procedure, Children's Hospital Colorado encourages consulting with a pediatric cardiologist to find the best solution and fit for the individual child. More information can be found here.