Recently, our medicine department was presented with a young Yorkshire Terrier called Shelley with severe congenital heart disease. The pulmonic valve that controls the flow of blood to the lungs from the heart was severely deformed. Left untreated, the survival time would be less than 12 months.
Traditionally, pulmonic stenosis was treated by a very risky open heart procedure. In addition, Shelly was only 2.6 kilograms.
More recently, Advanced Vetcare has been using a non-invasive technique using a balloon inserted via the jugular vein to increase the size of the pulmonary valve. Shelley was anaesthetised and under x-ray guidance, a balloon was inserted across the pulmonary valve and inflated when in the correct location. This action tore the deformed valve leaflet, and immediately the forward flow of blood through the heart was much improved. The balloon was removed and the small incision in her neck sutured closed. The procedure is effectively pain-free. We expect his lifespan to far exceed 12 months after this procedure.
Below is an image showing the balloon being inflated in a similar case. The ‘waist’ on the balloon is where the valvular deformity is present.