CHOC Doctor’s Expertise Gives Boy Improved Heart Health

Alex Puck

Thanks to the expertise and skill of one CHOC Children’s cardiologist, a seventh grader with a longstanding heart condition has a renewed chance for health and happiness.

Several months after undergoing Melody Transcatheter Pulmonary Valve (TPV) therapy, Alexander Puck of Lake Forest is energetic and active – a marked change over the lethargy and decreased energy that he experienced last year.

“I feel good. I’m just trying to get used to things like running faster and having more energy,” said Alexander, who just started practice with his Little League team.

Alexander’s procedure marked Dr. Farhouch Berdjis’ 25th such procedure – a fitting milestone given the patient’s and doctor’s longstanding relationship. Dr. Berdjis began treating Alexander when he was just 4 years old, and calls the boy “Alexander the Great.”

During the minimally invasive procedure, a thin, hollow tube holding a specially designed heart valve is inserted into a vein in the leg and is guided to the heart. Even better, Melody TPV therapy increases the likelihood that Alexander will experience fewer significant surgeries as he ages.

“Melody TPV is an example of the groundbreaking therapies that make CHOC a leader in pediatric medicine, and we are proud to be at the forefront of this technology,” Dr. Berdjis said.

Dr. Berdjis is among the 50 physicians nationwide certified to perform Melody TPV therapy. The CHOC Children’s Heart Institute is one of approximately 35 centers in the United States that is certified to perform the therapy.

Named after its inventor’s love of music, Melody TPV therapy was first used in Europe in 2000 and in the United States in 2007.

Alexander – who was born with several heart defects, including a pulmonary valve that would not close – had his valve replaced at 3 months old.

Last year, Alexander began experiencing decreased energy and difficulty climbing stairs. Dr. Berdjis informed Alexander’s parents that the valve would again require replacement – but the good news this time was that Melody TPV treatment could accomplish the task without open-heart surgery.

“It was a great relief because we were worried since he was 3 months old that they’d need to do another surgery,” said Kristi Puck, Alexander’s mother. “We were very excited to learn about the alternative. There are just so many complications that we wouldn’t have to deal with. We were in the hospital, and out the next day.”

These days, the Los Alisos Intermediate School student is focused on church, school and baseball – an activity that Dr. Berdjis has encouraged so long as Alexander wears a chest protector.

“I could see a big decrease in his performance over the season last year,” Kristi said. “We thought it might take some time before he could play again, but Dr. Berdjis was encouraging him to live and enjoy life. He wants him to stay active.”

A Mission Viejo resident, Dr. Berdjis is the Medical Director of the CHOC Cardiac Catheterization Lab. He has specialized expertise in cardiac catheterization and therapeutic cardiac catheterization.

Dr. Berdjis completed his fellowship and residency at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles and Wyler’s Children’s Hospital/University of Chicago. He received his medical training at the University of Wurzburg in Germany and completed his internship at Children’s Hospital of the University of Munich.

Watch a video of Dr. Berdjis explaining how Melody TPV therapy works:
Hear Dr. Berdjis explain the advantages of Melody TPV therapy:

Watch Dr. Berdjis explain about the certifications and approvals required to perform Melody TPV therapy:

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Melody Therapy at CHOC Improving Lives For Patients With Heart Disease

In honor of American Heart Month, we’re highlighting the CHOC Children’s Heart Institute including stories of our brave patients, as well as our amazing experts and some of the cutting-edge procedures they are using in caring for infants and children with heart defects/disease.  We recently spoke to Dr. Farhouch Berdjis, medical director of the CHOC Cardiac Catheterization Lab, about the new Melody Transcatheter Pulmonary Valve (TPV) Therapy, a less invasive procedure which can delay the need for open heart surgery.

Q: How do heart valves function?
A: The heart has four chambers. As the heart beats, normal heart valves repeatedly open and close fully to ensure that blood flows forward through the heart’s chambers. A narrowed or leaky heart valve can cause dizziness, chest pain, weakness, and can lead to serious medical problems.

Q: What is the Melody therapy and what makes it so unique?
A: The Melody therapy treats narrowed or leaking pulmonary valve conduits without open-heart surgery. With this therapy, a thin, hollow catheter or “tube” holding a specially designed heart valve is inserted into a child’s vein in his leg and guided to his heart. The heart valve is attached to a wire frame that expands with the help of a balloon to push the child’s blocked pulmonary conduit open. CHOC is one of a few hospitals in the United States currently using this state-of-the-art, FDA- approved procedure to treat the pulmonary valve.

Q: How will patients and families benefit from this procedure?
A: This therapy can be an alternative to surgery for some children who have already undergone previous heart surgeries. Patients can expect less scarring, less stress to their circulatory system, and an overall speedy and positive recovery both physically and emotionally.
To learn more about the Melody therapy, please contact Dr. Berdjis’ office at 714-547-0900. To learn more about the CHOC Children’s Heart Institute, click here: