People with congenital heart defects can undergo many open heart surgeries during their lifetime. According to Gillespie, most of these defects in the uterus are detected by standard ultrasound scans, so doctors will know if there are any heart problems by the time the child is born. According to the CDC, some heart defects may not be detected during pregnancy – some appear either at birth or as the child ages. Some babies seem healthy at first, but may still have a congenital heart defect, according to the CDC, so newborn screening is suggested to make sure babies are cared for and treated promptly.
Although some people with congenital heart defects may experience shortness of breath or swelling and abnormal heart rhythms, Gillespie said this was not common in his patients.
“You very rarely come in and say, ‘Well, I have a lot of symptoms,” he said. “You want to get them before you have symptoms because if you have symptoms it means you may have waited too long.”
But Gillespie said almost all of the patients he has treated with the Harmony TPV feel much more energetic. When the valve is replaced, the heart becomes a more efficient pump, which translates into better feeling and higher energy levels. He hopes technologies like the Harmony TPV will minimize the number of open heart surgeries that people need.
It has been two years since Hurley’s nonsurgical procedure, and like any other patient with a congenital heart defect, he is still examined annually. He also takes online courses at Penn State and remains active.
“Patients like Jack 25 or 30 years ago we just said, well, let’s just take them through childhood and into adulthood, but now we see that our patients can live long, productive and happy lives,” he told Gillespie . “And these new technologies allow us to keep our patients less invasive and keep their hearts healthier for longer periods of time.”