Some of the two million people with congenital heart defects have to turn to open-heart surgery as a last resort. Find out how a new valve may prevent them from going under the knife.
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Melissa Medley: Dan Matthys is still kicking after living 38 years with a heart defect. Dan Matthys: I never played sports growing up, I was never allowed to. Melissa Medley: A weak pulmonary artery valve reduced blood flow from Dan’s heart to his lungs zapping all his energy. By age 19, he had six open heart surgeries. The last one nearly killed him. Then two years ago, his valve had to be repaired. Dan Matthys: I was definitely afraid to go under another open heart procedure. Male: This valve has a three leaf structure. Melissa Medley: This new thimble size replacement could help Dan out. Doctors use a catheter to root the device through the patient’s leg right into the heart. There, it strengthens the valve, boosting blood flow. Philipp Bonhoeffer: To reopen the chest many times is obviously uncomfortably for the patient but it’s also dangerous in a way. Melissa Medley: On average, open heart surgery takes 46 hours with a six to eight week recovery. Dan’s transcatheter valve surgery took two hours and he was back at work in less than a week. Still, there are risks including artery blockage, valve infection and stroke. Dan has plenty of energy now for kickboxing, snowboarding and family vacations. Dan Matthys: Now, I feel like a real human again. I can do activities. I can do things that I’ve always wanted to do. Melissa Medley: From the kid who couldn’t play, to the man who won't stop. Dan Matthys: Most people that know me know I'm stubborn and I don’t slow down. Melissa Medley: I'm Melissa Medley reporting.
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