Cardiac Pioneer, Dr. Larry Cohn, Offers Helpful Tips For Patients Preparing For Heart Valve Surgery

During his 40-year career, Dr. Larry Cohn has performed over 10,000 cardiac procedures at leading heart centers including Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. Interestingly, Dr. Cohn is much more than a world renown surgeon, author and educator, he is also… a former aortic valve replacement patient.

Needless to say, it was an honor to visit with Dr. Cohn at the recent 91st Annual American Association for Thoracic Surgeons Meeting in Philadelphia. During our chat, Dr. Cohn addressed a common, patient question about preparing for heart surgery. Specifically, Dr. Cohn answered Fred’s question, “As I prepare for mitral valve repair surgery, should I maintain, increase or decrease my exercise program?”

Thanks to Fred for his question. And, a very special thanks to Dr. Larry Cohn for his commitment, dedication and pursuit of healthy heart valves. For the members of our community that are hearing impaired, I have provided a written transcript to this video interview with Dr. Cohn below.

Adam:  Hi, everybody.  It’s Adam and we are at AATS in Philadelphia very fortunate to be sitting here with Dr. Larry Cohn from the Brigham Hospital at Harvard Medical School.  We got a question that came in from Fred and he writes in, “Adam, I’m scheduled for mitral valve repair.  Should I maintain, increase, or decrease my physical exercise?”

Dr. Cohn:  Well, that’s a very good question.  Many, many patients I see for mitral valve repair, they always want to ask me a question.  What should I do to get ready for the surgery?  And, in actual fact, many patients with mitral valve prolapse or mitral valve disease are in pretty good shape as it is. Many are actually asymptomatic, as you know.  The basic principle I tell them is don’t do more than than you do now.  In fact, you ought to scale back a little bit because there’s going to be a certain psychogenic overlay that you get a little nervous about having the surgery and that might increase your exercise and could elicit, perhaps, a little palpitation, atrial fibrillation, or something.  You don’t want to do that.  So you should go about your normal activity but might even downgrade your exercise just a little bit.  If, on the other hand, you happen to be overweight, there’s another exercise that you really ought to cut back and that’s the one that’s like this that puts food in your mouth because if you could lose five or ten pounds before the surgery, it’s all about your faster recovery because you’re a little bit lighter and easier to transport around. But having said that, I really would conclude that you cut down your activity by a little, may up to ten percent.  Don’t overdo it because you sometimes get in trouble if you have severe mitral valve prolapse. (Click here to learn more about mitral valve prolpase.)

Adam:  One question that comes up also is from the folks out there who are smokers.

Dr. Cohn:  Bad.

Adam:  Bad?

Dr. Cohn:  Real bad.  Smoking can in surgery, particularly heart surgery, is a very bad combination.  We insist that all the patients that I do mitral valve repair are off of cigarettes for at least four weeks.  The reason is that if you smoke, you have a chronic bronchitis and you’re going to have a breathing (ventilator) tube down there for a couple hours for the operation.  This can cause bronchitis or pneumonia.  You absolutely have to get off cigarettes.  That is just fundamental.  We just can’t have that.  That’s a bad – That’s a real no no.

Adam:  Well, Dr. Cohn, I know there’s a lot of patients out there who are watching this and on behalf of all of them, I just want to thank you for everything that you’re doing.  You have really made a difference in the lives of a lot of people.  I’ve talked to them and I just want you to know that we appreciate it.

Dr. Cohn: Alright, Thank you!

Keep on tickin!

Adam Pick
Written by Adam Pick

Adam Pick is a patient, author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery and the founder of HeartValveSurgery.com.

To learn how Adam has helped millions of people with heart valve disease, watch Adam's video, subscribe to his free newsletter, or visit his Facebook, or Twitter pages.

  • Sharon Courtney

    I am going to have aortic valve replacement in the fall. What about exercise in this situation. I want to do road bike riding this summer, but I haven’t been doing that yet. Would it be okay to start riding now? I have been walking some, but I have an arthritic knee and bike riding would be better for my knee.

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