- Baby born with rare and fatal heart disease mixed mitral valve disease.
- Doctors perform ground-breaking surgery using cow tissue and metal frame, saving 13-weeks-old Florence.
- Baby is now healthy but struggle for her does not end as she will still undergo surgery in future as she grows.
A ground-breaking surgery in the United Kingdom saved a 13-week-old baby by replacing a valve in her tiny heart using a metal frame and a cow tissue, the Daily Mail reported.
Florence Fox was diagnosed with a rare and fatal heart disease called mixed mitral valve disease at just nine weeks old. The disease affects one of the valves in the heart, which is supposed to provide oxygen-rich blood flow.
Initially, the doctors at Evelina London Children’s Hospital told the parents that they would conduct the surgery once the baby got older. However, her health worsened and the doctors changed their decision.
“The doctors said they had to operate or she would not be leaving the hospital,” told the mother.
Surgeons try to repair the valve with a metal valve, but it is an option usually chosen for older children and adults. Such an option with smaller children is complicated because the heart is very small and the surgery could lead to death.
Recently, surgeons have started working with the Melody valve, part of a cow’s heart that is fitted on a metal frame. The frame size is altered to become the size of the patient’s heart.
Dr Aaron Bell, a consultant in paediatric cardiology, says, “This approach is new – it’s something she wouldn’t have had a few years ago.”
“Only about 50% of small children survived having a mechanical valve, so we do everything to avoid it,” says Conal Austin, Evelina’s consultant paediatric cardiac surgeon.
Florence’s surgery went on for six hours last September, during which she was placed on a heart-lung bypass machine.
The mother says, “Signing the consent form before the operation was awful.”
“She is a very happy, bubbly baby now,” she said. “She is always babbling away and is hitting all of her milestones. She is feeding normally. It is so lovely.”
The struggle for Florence does not end here, however. She will still undergo surgery in the future as she grows.