Adam's Heart Valve Surgery Blog

Get the latest news, patient advice and insights about heart valve surgery from Adam Pick, patient, author and website founder

“How Long Will My Dad’s Pumphead Last After Heart Valve Surgery?” Asks Rob

I just received a follow-up question from Rob about pumphead and memory loss after heart surgery that you might find interesting.

Rob writes, “Hi Adam – I have a quick question. My dad just had open heart surgery two days ago to repair his mitral valve (it was a 4+ for regurgitation). He also has had previous issues with atrial fib.  Today, he was having some issues remembering particular words/phrases. This concerns the nurses and us because of the possibility of brain issues after surgeries like these. I have a doctor-friend who says some of this is normal based on all the drugs he is on and the use of the heart-lung machine. Did you experience any of the brain and thought issues with your surgery? Do you have any insight on that? Thanks so much, Rob”

Although I did not have any direct cognitive problems following heart surgery, I have written about this post-operative complication on several occasions.

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TRIVIA: How Much Blood Moves Through Your Heart Valves Each Hour?

Okay… Ready for some heart anatomy trivia?

The question is, “How much blood moves through your heart valves in one hour?”

A. 5 gallons
B. 10 gallons
C. 50 gallons
D. 100 gallons
E. 500 gallons of blood

To find out the answer, scroll below the beating heart.

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Off-Topic: Ethan At 17 Weeks (With Video)!

Thanks to all of you who have requested an update on Ethan, our four-month old baby boy.

So you know… Ethan is doing greeeeeeeeeeaaaaaat!

  • He’s about 15 pounds now, having doubled his weight since birth.
  • He’s doing his best to communicate (via coos, grunts, and crys) with Robyn and me.
  • He’s sleeping pretty good, waking up only 1-2 times a night.

Best of all… Ethan is a very, very, very, very smiley baby. Personally, I can’t get enough of his teeth-less smiles. It really does melt my heart each time I look at him. Last week, he started to laugh which is incredibly funny.

Here are some recent pictures of Ethan, Robyn (my wife), Donna (my mom) and me. In the first picture, Ethan is in his Lion towel – after bath time with his mommy.

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The Aortic Valve Replacement Story of Senator John Larson

I just learned that John Larson, the fourth highest ranking democrat in the House of Representatives, underwent elective heart valve replacement surgery yesterday. Larson, 61, had known about his valvular disorder for at least two years when he was diagnosed during a routine physical.

John Larson was resting comfortably after a successful aortic valve replacement procedure and is expected to make a full recovery, said Barry Feldman, a personal spokesman for the congressman. Larson suffered from a congenital defect to an aortic valve which caused aortic stenosis, the narrowing of that valve.

Representative John Larson (Connecticut)

Without surgery, the valve would eventually have become clogged, stopping the flow of blood, Feldman said. Given these statements it seems that Larson’s diagnosis may have progressed from moderate to severe aortic stenosis quickly.

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“Pictures Of Heart Valve Disease?” Asks Ray

Ray just emailed me a great question about heart valve disease.

He writes, “Adam – Try this one on for size… I’m 57 and newly diagnosed with severe stenosis in my aortic valve. The docs think I need surgery soon. I can’t believe it. I feel fine. No real symptoms. But, the echo shows my heart is already dilated somewhat. Even though the cardiologist told me what is wrong… I want to see what is wrong. Do you have any pictures of heart valve disease? Thanks, Ray”

Like Ray, I experienced a very similar thought upon diagnosis, “What does a diseased heart valve look like?” That said, please find several pictures below to help Ray (and perhaps you) better understand the visual anatomy of several different types of valve disease.

First, however, I thought you might like to see what a normal heart valve looks like for comparison. Here are two pictures of a normal aortic heart valve and tricuspid heart valve:

Normal Aortic Valve Picture
Normal Tricuspid Valve Picture

As for the different types of valvular disorders, here is a picture of aortic valve stenosis. The valve cusps are rigid, distorted and deformed.

Here is a picture of a bicuspid aortic valve that is severely calcified. (So you know, this was my diagnosis prior to double heart valve surgery.)

Pictures of mitral valve prolapse rarely show the problem caused by this diagnosis, so I included a diagram of this valvular disorder:

Finally, if you were wondering, “Does calcification of the leaflets impact the mitral valve?” The answer to that is yes. Here is picture of a mitral valve with severe calcification:

I hope these pictures help you better visualize some of the various forms of heart valve disease. If you have any additional pictures to share, please let me know!

Keep on tickin!

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