UCLA engineering and Mattel Children's Hospital collaborate to develop children's heart valve

e heart chamber. This condition most often is treated surgically, and the valve is replaced with a human donor valve, a porcine valve or a mechanical one. All heart valve replacements have a limited life span and must be replaced eventually, but for children, there are even greater complications: the valves do not grow as children grow, which could mean as many as three or more open-heart surgeries during childhood and adolescence alone.

Open-heart surgery typically requires three to four days in intensive care, at least one or two weeks in the hospital and a lengthy recovery period at home. In contrast, patients who have valves replaced via catheter could go home as early as the following day, with little pain.

While catheter-based valve replacement procedures already are revolutionizing valve replacement for larger patients, smaller children have not yet benefited from this technology. Although many companies are competing to develop the ideal transcatheter heart valve, most of these valves are bulky and can be used only in adults. Thin film nitinol could allow doctors at UCLA to make a transcatheter heart valve suitable for use even in small children.

"By collaborating with UCLA Engineering, we are creating a pediatric heart valve that has great strength and biocompatibility. It could mean a shortened procedure, a lower level of risk, and much less stress on the patient and their family. It also will mean a lower cost to the health care system," Levi said. "Our valve is presently being designed for replacement of the pulmonary valve, but eventually may also be able to be used for the aortic valve."

The UCLA team also has used thin film nitinol successfully in other biomedical applications such as stents -- short narrow metal mesh tubes inserted into an artery or bile duct to keep blocked passageways open -- as well as in other applications.

"Although the medical community has used bulk nitinol for the past decade in stent

Contact: Melissa Abraham
University of California - Los Angeles

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