Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Cardiologists Perform Melody Heart Valve Implant in Child Actor Max Page, the Little Darth Vader in the 2011 VW Super Bowl Commercial

The new valve enables the 10-year-old actor to avoid open-heart

Max will have a second procedure Sept. 1, when CHLA surgeons
implant a new heart pacemaker

LOS ANGELES–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Cardiologists from Children’s
Hospital Los Angeles
successfully implanted a Melody Transcatheter
Pulmonary Valve in child actor Max Page, the boy who made headlines
playing mini Darth Vader in a 2011 Super Bowl ad for Volkswagen.

Page, now 10, suffers from a congenital heart disease, tetralogy of
Fallot, and he was recently diagnosed with conduit stenosis, a condition
that was restricting blood flow from the right ventricle of his heart
into his lungs due to a narrowing of the pulmonary valve, which had been
surgically implanted in 2012.

“We had a great result; Max has a new heart valve, and we hope it will
last a long time,” says pediatric interventional cardiologist Frank
, co-director of CHLA’s
Heart Institute
and leader of the cardiology team that performed the
three-hour procedure July 30. “His pulmonary valve function has been
restored and we avoided open-heart surgery.” The stenosis, Ing
explained, had been restricting the flow of blood into his lungs and was
also leaking blood back into his heart. But tests performed by
Children’s Hospital the morning after the procedure showed significant
improvement in Max’s heart function, Ing said.

Media: To see and capture a YouTube video of the Max Page Melody
Valve operation go
roll video clips of the Max Page Melody Valve Procedure available upon

On Tuesday, Sept. 1, Max will have a procedure at Children’s Hospital
Los Angeles to replace his pacemaker pulse generator. It will be his
second operation in 34 days. This device is implanted in the abdominal
wall and keeps track of Max’s heart rhythm through electrodes sewn to
the heart. It stimulates the heart muscle with an electrical impulse to
maintain the appropriate heart rate for whatever activity Max is doing
at the time. “Since the pulse generator runs on batteries, it needs to
be replaced at periodic intervals, usually every five to seven years,”
explains cardiothoracic surgeon Winfield Wells.

After undergoing the Melody Valve procedure in July, Max was discharged
from the hospital the very next day. “Max was a little sore, but he was
able to walk, jump and move for Dr. Ing the morning after surgery,” his
mother, Jennifer, says.

“I’m feeling good,” Max said just before his discharge, taking a
practice golf swing in shorts and a polo shirt in his hospital room.
Speaking beyond his years from his hospital room, he added, “The staff
here is really great and the doctors are very happy.”

“It’s just amazing to think Max can receive a new heart valve and be out
of the hospital in 24 hours,” says Max’s father, Buck. “The last time we
were here for open-heart surgery, he had a 10-inch chest scar and he was
on morphine for three days. Now he is going home with a couple of
Band-Aids and some Tylenol.”

Born with a congenital heart defect, Max had his first surgery at age 3
months. The Melody Valve procedure was his 10th operation,
says Jennifer, explaining that Max first began complaining of fatigue
and exhaustion earlier in the summer. “He just wasn’t his usual self,”
she said of her son, who likes to play golf, guitar and act (he has
recurring roles on the soap opera “The Young and the Restless” and the
Disney Channel series “I Didn’t Do It”).

Ing says that an echocardiogram in mid-July indicated an inconsistency
with the force that propels blood, called the gradient pressure, through
Max’s pulmonary valve. During the procedure, Ing confirmed a high
gradient across the narrowing caused by a thickened pulmonary valve,
constricting blood flow. To open the valve, Ing first dilated a balloon
inserted via a catheter running through blood vessels from Max’s thigh
to the pulmonary valve. But this only partly improved the pressure
gradient and the heart was still working too hard to pump blood into
Max’s lungs. After consulting with CHLA cardiothoracic surgeon Vaughn
A. Starnes
, co-director of the Heart Institute, Ing moved on to the
second option — inserting a Melody Valve inside the old pulmonary valve.
First, his team ran a test inflation of the Melody Valve to make sure
the new valve wouldn’t affect the function of the nearby coronary
artery, which could trigger a heart attack on the table.

Using specialized high-resolution X-ray imaging to guide his catheter
back into the existing pulmonary valve, Ing dilated the Melody device to
the appropriate diameter to allow the blood to flow with consistent
pressure between the heart and lungs. “We use a team approach at CHLA,”
says Ing, a specialist in complex cardiac catheterization procedures.
“We determined that by opening the pulmonary valve with the Melody
Valve, this would widen the existing narrowing to allow the heart to
work less hard. It’s like clearing an accident on a freeway to open up
all the lanes for traffic.”

The Melody was granted premarket approval this year by the U.S. Food and
Drug Administration but has been used in children as a federally
designated humanitarian device intervention for several years. The
primary benefit of the procedure in children is that it can increase
considerably the time between surgeries, allowing children an
opportunity to grow so cardiologists and surgeons can use adult-sized
devices, reducing the need to replace them as young patients grow older.
This less-invasive procedure also allows for both shorter hospital stays
and recovery times for heart patients.

Had the Melody device not been a viable option, Max would have been
scheduled for open-heart surgery to implant a new pulmonary valve. The
hospital is currently fundraising to build a hybrid surgery suite that
would allow CHLA cardiologists and surgeons to convert the room from a
catheter lab to a surgery suite instantly, so physicians can collaborate
on cases and patients can have complex catheter procedures and surgeries
done on the same day. The Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Heart
Ambassadors — co-chaired by Jennifer and Buck Page — has been leading
the fundraising effort for two years. “Had Max needed surgery again, it
would have been better to do it at the same time,” Jennifer says. “But
in the future, this hybrid surgery suite will be a tremendous benefit
for all CHLA heart patients.”

In 2012, Max had his pulmonary valve replaced during a two-hour surgery
at CHLA. While his physicians had hoped the pulmonary valve would last
longer, many variables affect that outcome, such as how an individual’s
body reacts to the new valve. “It’s possible that the growth of the
tissue around Max’s pulmonary valve was affected by Max’s own body’s
process of healing after his last surgery, ” Ing says. “There were
places where the valve appeared thicker than I would have expected. But
no one understands the cause or why it happens to one valve but not to
another, or in different patients.”

The morning of the July procedure, Max waited with his family, fighting
off hunger pains and playing video games on a mobile phone. “I’m feeling
a little tense and nervous, but I know the doctors are going to do a
good job,” he said. During the procedure, he kept a small Bible in a bag
near his gurney as his family waited in the Heart Institute family
lounge. Jennifer, Buck, Max’s brother Els and their maternal
grandparents reminisced about Max’s previous visits to CHLA and said
private prayers. Els rubbed his angel coin for good luck. “Els was a
rock star and was determined not to eat until Max went in for surgery,”
says Jennifer, who was impressed by her younger son’s multitasking.
“When we got word that Max would need more than just a dilation of the
valve, Els texted us, ‘Keep praying.’”

Max resumed most of his activities within days, though he remains
restricted from playing contact sports over the next several months and
will need periodic follow-up echocardiograms to monitor the new valve.
“It never goes away,” Buck says. “Max will be dealing with this his
entire life. It’s something he’s aware of, but he wants to experience
life to the fullest and we want to make sure that he has that.”

About Children’s Hospital Los Angeles

Children’s Hospital Los Angeles has been named the best children’s
hospital in California and among the top 10 in the nation for clinical
excellence with its selection to the prestigious U.S. News & World Report Honor
Roll of children’s hospitals. Children’s Hospital Los Angeles is home to The
Saban Research Institute
, one of the largest and most productive
pediatric research facilities in the United States. The hospital is also
ranked among the country’s premier teaching hospitals, and has been
affiliated with the Keck School of Medicine of the University of
Southern California since 1932.

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