A Melody for Madeleine's Heart

Minimally Invasive Valve Replacement

Madeleine, born with a heart defect, received a new heart valve through a minimally-invasive procedure used as an alternative to open-heart surgery.

For 12-year-old Madeleine Ames – born with truncus arteriosis, a type of congenital heart defect – an innovative technology provided a way to treat her condition without additional open-heart surgery.

Congenital heart defects affect more than 35,000 infants - one out of every 125 - born in the United States every year, according to the March of Dimes. Since being diagnosed with truncus arteriosis before birth, Denver resident Madeleine has undergone two open-heart surgeries - one at 4 weeks old to place the initial heart valve and another at age 2 ½ years old to replace that valve. Her parents, Chris and Deanna Ames, have vivid memories of the procedures.

Because the valves previously placed in Madeleine's heart were only expected to last a few years, the Ames family prepared themselves for another open-heart surgery. When Chris and Deanna heard from Madeleine's cardiologist, Dr. Joseph Kay, that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the Melody® transcatheter pulmonary valve by Medtronic for use in the United States, they were excited about Madeleine's potential as a candidate. After meeting all the qualifications, Madeleine, then 10, was chosen as the first Melody valve patient in Colorado.

"Any time technology is available to save your child from having open heart surgery, it's a great feeling," Chris said. "It's amazing to see how technology has evolved since Madeleine was born."

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Specialized care for small patients

In a catheterization procedure performed by Thomas Fagan, MD, Pediatric Cardiologist at Children's Hospital Colorado, the Melody valve was inserted into Madeleine's leg using a catheter and placed in her previous valve graft. Balloon catheters were also used to break up scar tissue Madeleine had developed in the valve graft before the valve could be placed.

"The Melody valve is revolutionary," Dr. Fagan said. "This technology allows us to deliver a pulmonary valve through a minimally invasive, X-ray-guided procedure rather than traditional open-heart surgery."

“When I first heard about the Melody® valve, I was really excited. Before the surgery, I was a little nervous, but I tried to be brave. I was happy to be the first person in Colorado to have the surgery.”
—Madeleine Ames, age 12

Staying on beat

Madeleine, whose inspirational and lively attitude is contagious, hasn't let truncus arteriosis slow her down. Since the Melody valve procedure, Madeleine says she feels no differently. She continues to participate in activities she loves, such as riding horses and serving as treasurer in her school's 4H Club.

"Dr. Fagan explained the entire procedure beforehand and valued Madeleine as a patient, even though she was just 10 at the time," Deanna said. "This level of care will empower her as she eventually takes over her own health as an adult."

Watch a kid-friendly video about what to expect for a heart catheterization.

Read stories of other patients at the Heart Institute.