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New procedure helping kids born with congenital heart defects

The new procedure is not only changing cardiology, but also the lives of over 600 Arkansas babies who are born with congenital heart defects every year.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — There's a new hope for kids born with congenital heart defects now that doctors at Arkansas Children's Hospital are able to work on a patient, all without doing open heart surgery. 

It's a procedure that Arkansas Children's Hospital is one of the first programs in the nation-- the harmony valve procedure

It's not only changing the world of cardiology, but also the lives of more than 600 babies in Arkansas that are born with congenital heart defects every year, according to Dr. Michael Angtuaco.

"We're hopeful that it's going to be a good, long-lasting solution for them," he said.

It's something that doctors like Angtuaco have been waiting years for.

"We've been looking over the past decade or so about ways that we can address heart disease in a less invasive manner, without having to do open heart surgery," Angtuaco said.

Thankfully that search is now over, and the answer is the harmony valve. 

It's a replacement for the temporary valve that children with heart defects receive earlier in their life, but according to Angtuaco, this one is done in a minimally invasive way.

"We know that every time we have to go back in and repeat a surgery, it's a higher risk. A higher risk for something bad happening, higher risk of death from the surgery," he said.

Angtuaco said the harmony valve procedure not only decreases those risks, but also speeds up recovery time.

"When patients come in for a valve replacement in my catheterization lab, they go home the next day and they go back to their lives," he said.

According to Angtuaco, Arkansas Children's Hospital has already implanted six of these valves so far, with Maddie Jacobs being one of the first.

Maddie's mom, Alicia Agrawal, described it as 'an answered prayer.'

"There's so many kids waiting on something like this, so they won't have to have another open heart surgery because that's just traumatic for everyone," she said.

Agrawal had to go through that with Jacobs when she was just 9-weeks-old.

She said Maddie was 'living on borrowed time' before this procedure, even if no one could tell looking on the outside.

"I've been praying and praying for one of these valves to get approved and the harmony valve was perfect for exactly what she needed," Agrawal said.

While Maddie is now feeling happier and healthier, Agrawal is hopeful for the future.

"We know it's not forever, but hey, she's just going to get stronger and bigger and keep fighting," she said.

Health officials said that this procedure is done in the hospital's new catheterization lab. 

According to Angtuaco, Arkansas Children's Hospital is the first pediatric catheterization lab in the world to have the newest technology, which includes things like 3-D images and less use of radiation.

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