Doctors have recommended open-heart surgery for pulmonary valve replacements until now.
However, the Oregon Health and Science University is one of a few centres in the United States qualified to implant a valve through the leg.
Till date, four patients have received the landmark valve in the OHSU Paediatric and Adult Congenital Cardiac Catheterization Lab. All reported immediate improvement in their energy level and stamina.
The device is called the Medtronic Melody Transcatheter Pulmonary valve, which has been used in Europe since 2000 and was recently approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
The valve is used to replace a narrow or leaky pulmonary valve 'conduit' in children and adults who previously have undergone surgery to correct a congenital heart defect.
It is inserted into a tiny opening in the leg and guided by a catheter through blood vessels into the heart. Once the valve is correctly positioned, a balloon on the end of the catheter is inflated, delivering the valve and immediately correcting blood flow.
"Children born with blocked or leaky heart valves can undergo as many as four open-heart surgeries before reaching adulthood to replace conduits that have worn out or that they've outgrown, and each time the risk of surgery goes up," said Grant Burch, associate professor of paediatric cardiology at OHSU Doernbecher Children's Hospital.
"The Melody extends the useful life of an implanted valve conduit and is very likely to reduce the number of open-heart operations a patient might require over a lifetime," he added.
"This device is not going to abolish the need for open-heart surgery, but it does provide a safe and effective alternative to surgery for many children and young adults with congenital heart disease," said Burch.
"The remarkable thing about this procedure is that the valve is placed into the beating heart through a vein in the patient's leg. After the procedure, patients spend a night on the hospital ward and are discharged home the following morning," said Laurie Armsby, associate professor of paediatric cardiology at OHSU Doernbecher.
"This device brings us closer to the goal of providing children less invasive alternatives to surgery for the treatment of congenital heart disease," she added.