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Barbara Walters' Prognosis Is Excellent, Doctors Say
Date:5/11/2010

Increasingly common surgery will replace aortic valve to improve blood flow

TUESDAY, May 11 (HealthDay News) -- TV broadcaster Barbara Walters surprised fans of her weekday show "The View" Monday when she announced she was preparing to undergo a heart valve replacement, a procedure that will keep her off the air until the fall.

But doctors say her prognosis is excellent, with heart-valve replacement surgery now considered a routine procedure that typically leads to a full recovery.

"Having an isolated aortic valve replacement nowadays is associated with maybe a 1 or 2 percent mortality," said Dr. Daniel Goldstein, surgical director of the Center for Advanced Cardiac Therapy at Montefiore-Einstein Heart Center in New York City.

Walters, who is 80, told viewers that the faulty valve was discovered during an echocardiogram.

Other high-profile recent recipients of heart valve replacements include former First Lady Barbara Bush and comedian Robin Williams.

Dr. Paul Stelzer, a professor in the department of cardiothoracic surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, said the most likely reason for "someone to have a valve replaced these days is aortic stenosis."

This condition involves the aortic valve, which is located between the left lower chamber of the heart -- the left ventricle -- and the aorta, the largest artery in the body. As the left ventricle contracts, the valve opens, forcing oxygenated blood into the aorta where it is then distributed throughout the body.

"The valve is supposed to be a one-way door that opens completely and doesn't cause any obstruction of blood flow, and then closes completely so the blood only flows in one direction," Stelzer explained.

But as a heart ages, the valve can sometimes stiffen and not open all the way, which forces the heart muscle to do all the work, potentially leading to shortness of breath, fainting, chest p
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