Barbara Walters to Get Heart Valve Surgery

Flickr photo by oedipusphinx
Interviewer of the stars and governess of ABC's The View, Barbara Walters announced today that she's getting heart valve surgery. According to The New York Times, the 80-year-old Walters said she's known about this problem for a while and decided that summer would be a good time to get it done and then recuperate.

And that's all she said about it. Through her publicist, she's declined to talk anymore, including to ABC. Which really sounds about right. There's not a whole lot more to say about heart valve surgery, as it's a pretty common and low-risk procedure that cardiologists have been performing for many years.

But in case you're worried about whether your favorite daytime talk show host is returning to the show, here are the facts about heart valve disease to set your mind at ease, according to the National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute and a cardiologist friend of mine:

  • The heart has four valves that flap open and closed to control the flow of blood to and from the heart. When one isn't working properly, blood goes in when it should be going out, or vice versa, and this makes your heart work harder to pump blood.
  • Sometimes the faulty valve problem stays the same and never leads to any problems, but in some people the condition worsens, requiring surgery. "In most cases, the patient will have deteriorating heart function, usually gradually getting worse and worse, with an increase of shortness of breath and possibly eventually die because the heart valve is supposed to open, but it doesn't," my friend tells me.
  • There are no drugs to treat the condition.
  • Fixing the problem can cut the risk of stroke or heart attack.

Traditional surgery requires opening the chest and heart, which from the length of time that Walters says she needs to recuperate, seems to be the route the newswoman is going. But sometimes the fix can be made less invasive through endovascular surgery, where a long catheter is run through the femoral vein in the groin and up to the heart, and a little clothespin-like device clips the leaky valve shut.

At any rate, I'm sure Walters will be back in her center seat and feistier than ever come fall.

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