discoveries magazine


Cedars-Sinai patient Cheryl Davis.

Cheryl Davis was able to resume her active lifestyle soon after receiving a revolutionary implantable device to repair a serious congenital heart defect. Photo: Bill Pollard

Thanks to Cedars-Sinai and interventional cardiologist Evan Zahn, MD, Cheryl Davis, 48, became the first person in the world to receive a new, implantable device for repairing congenital cardiac defects—without open-heart surgery.

Malformed pulmonary valves like Davis’ are among the most common such anomalies. The condition affects blood flow through the heart and quietly causes significant heart damage that may ultimately result in premature death.

Davis underwent her first open-heart surgery when she was just 9 years old. Although successful, the surgery could not completely fix her pulmonary valve and she was left with a significant leak that required close monitoring.

That didn’t keep her from living an active life as an animation lighting artist and yoga instructor. But about five years ago, she began feeling the effects of her worsening heart condition. She dreaded the thought of another painful, timeconsuming open-heart surgery that would keep her away from her career and hobbies.

“These patients typically require multiple open-heart surgeries over the course of their lifetimes,” says Zahn, director of the Guerin Family Congenital Heart Program at the Smidt Heart Institute. He had long searched for a solution that might yield better patient results, require fewer repeat surgeries, and get patients home more quickly.

Zahn recently became the first to implant an investigational device into a patient—Davis—in a Food and Drug Administration-approved feasibility trial. Delivered through a small leg incision, the self-expanding, stent-like apparatus conforms to a range of pulmonary artery anatomies.

Davis underwent the 90-minute procedure and went home the next day. “I’m so excited that this treatment option was available to me as part of a clinical trial,” she says. “I’m looking forward to getting back to doing the things I love.”