Pregnant Woman Saved With Innovative Heart Surgery

In what may be a first in the U.S., a pregnant woman had a heart valve replaced through non-invasive surgery.

Heart surgery is the very last thing you want to do when carrying a child. Unfortunately 23-year-old Katie Dickens found herself pregnant and in need of a replacing a valve in her heart that had weakened and was deteriorating. Dickens was born with an abnormal heart valve and began having difficulties breathing shortly after getting pregnant.

"I was scared to death," Dickens said in an interview Sunday according to The Oregonian. "My boyfriend and I, we couldn't really talk about the baby. There was no certainty at all."

Doing traditional open heart surgery, which would mean cutting open Dickens’ chest, to replace the faulty valve would be the go-to option for the average person in need of heart help. In this case, doing so would have put the lives of both Dickens and her unborn child at risk.

Katie Dickens

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At Providence Saint Vincent Medical Center in Portland Oregon, doctors had to get creative to solve the problem. Instead of opening her chest, doctors used a transcatheter aortic valve replacement. They sliped a new artificial heart valve into place through a catheter. Once the valve expanded, the old valve was pushed out of the way and the replacement takes over the duties of regulating blood flow.

This fix isn’t a permanent one and she will likely have to undergo another procedure within the decade, but for now both Dickens and her baby are out of danger and doing fine.

Doctors are saying this operation was a first in the Northwest and possible a first in the United States as well.

"We're all excited about this," said Dr. Hodson, a cardiologist at Providence Saint Vincent Medical Center. "This is one of those things in your career that makes a difference."

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