Cardiac valve procedure at Wolfson Children’s provides alternative to open-heart surgery for Bunnell resident

New minimally invasive procedure can help patients avoid lengthy recovery.

Jacksonville, FL -

Diagnosed at birth with tetralogy of Fallot, a congenital heart defect that impacts normal blood flow to the heart, Travis Sabatini was just 15 months old when he had his first corrective heart surgery.

Sabatini, now 34 years old, has continued routine cardiac checkups through the Adult Congenital Heart Program at Wolfson Children’s Hospital since moving to Florida in 2003. While most of his visits have resulted in a clean bill of health, in 2021, Sabatini noticed a decline in his stamina during everyday activities.

“It was starting to affect me and make me feel really out of shape,” said Sabatini, who lives in Bunnell, Fla.

Pediatric interventional cardiologist Robert English, MD, suggested a new minimally invasive procedure to place a Harmony Valve™, a transcatheter pulmonary valve that replaces a leaky or narrow pulmonary valve.

In the past, most patients would have to undergo open-heart surgery to have a mechanical valve placed. A small population could receive the Melody Valve™ via catheter if they had a narrowed valve. This technology is also placed via catheter and replaces narrow pulmonary valves.

The new valve procedure provides an alternative for patients with an enlarged and leaky pulmonary valve.

“Roughly 75% of our patients who were only offered open-heart surgery before are now eligible for this device that can be placed in the cath lab,” said Dr. English.
Sabatini said he was nervous and excited, but the prospect of avoiding a lengthy recovery from open-heart surgery filled him with optimism.

In May 2023, he was one of the first patients at the C. Herman and Mary Virginia Terry Heart Institute at Wolfson Children’s to receive the new device. The procedure was a success and Sabatini quickly noticed a difference in his quality of life.

"I couldn't sleep because I had so much energy," he said. "I'm getting back into shape, working out and enjoying more time at Disney with my family."

Sabatini will continue to visit the Adult Congenital Heart Program doctors to monitor his progress and he encourages others facing the same diagnosis to consider the procedure.

"It's natural to feel scared about any heart surgery or procedure," Sabatini said. "If you have this option, you'll recover much more quickly. I was terrified when the time came, considering I hadn't had heart surgery since I was 15 months old. However, it was a quick, easy, and smooth process."

Physicians providing care at Wolfson Children’s Hospital are not employees nor agents of the hospital. Services at Wolfson Children’s Hospital are provided primarily by pediatric physician specialists employed by Nemours Children’s Health, Jacksonville, University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville, Baptist Specialty Physicians, Inc., and Emergency Resources Group.