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

“Is Your Heart Valve Surgery Newsletter Really Free?” Asks Amy

Amy just sent me an interesting question about my newsletter. She writes, “Adam – I’ve been coming to your blog for three months now. In May, I was diagnosed with severe regurgitation from mitral valve prolapse. I’m curious to know, is there a hidden fee if I subscribe to your newsletter? Is it really free? Thanks, Amy”

The answer to Amy’s question is a very, very, very simple… Yes, It’s Free! There is no hidden cost to signing up for my newsletter. I know there are a lot of Internet scams out there, but my free newsletter is definitely not one of them. Maybe that is why several thousand people have signed up! 🙂

If you would like to subscribe, simply click the button below. That way you can stay up-to-date on all the latest news, insights, research and opinions from our growing heart valve community. Plus, in the next few weeks, I am going to announce a number of helpful changes to this website that you will not want to miss.

I hope that answers Amy’s question.

Keep on tickin!

“Did You Get An M.R.I. Before Heart Valve Surgery?” Asks Gregg

Through your stories and my ongoing research, I have learned that properly diagnosing heart valve disease can be tricky. That said, I always encourage patients to get a second opinion prior to any surgical treatment (if possible).

However, Gregg just sent me an interesting question about the use of M.R.I.’s as a diagnostic tool for valvular disorders. [If you have never seen an M.R.I. of the human heart before, please see below… Can you identify the two valves that are opening-and-closing in this image?]

MRI of Heart Valves Functioning In The Heart
M.R.I. of the Human Heart

Gregg writes, “Hi Adam –  Having been diagnosed with a bicuspid valve and an enlarged aorta, I am scheduled for a follow-up echocardiogram this month to determine if there have been any changes to my current condition. My question to you is whether an echo is okay or should I get an MRI? I ask this because during a consult with a surgeon – who is well known for his work in valve repair and valve replacement – he recommended an M.R.I. as a more thorough test.  I am curious to know what you and your readers think? Thanks. Gregg”

In my experience, the use of an echocardiogram remains the non-invasive, industry standard for diagnosing heart valve diseases like aortic stenosis and mitral regurgitation. Furthermore, my gut tells me that echocardiogram machines which feature 3D technology will continue to preserve the widespread utility of echocardiograms as the non-invasive benchmark for valve disorder detection and monitoring.

To this point, here is an interesting video which discusses the benefits of three dimensional echocardiograms. (Please note there are about 10 seconds at the beginning of the video that have no content.)

However, I am aware of M.R.I. use as an alternative test for collecting additional information about heart valve disorders.

In fact, the National Heart and Lung Institute suggests, “Cardiac M.R.I. uses a powerful magnet and radio waves to make detailed images of your heart. A cardiac M.R.I. image can confirm information about valve defects or provide more detailed analysis. This information can help your doctor plan your treatment. An MRI also may be done before heart valve surgery to help your surgeon plan for the surgery.”

So you know… Prior to my heart valve surgery, I did not have an M.R.I. performed. Instead, my cardiologists used two distinct echocardiograms to formally diagnose the severe stenosis of my aortic valve.

Did you have an M.R.I. as part of your diagnostic process? If so, please click here to leave a comment for Gregg. In advance, thanks for sharing your experience with all of us!!!

Keep on tickin!

Be Careful of A Big Sneeze After Heart Surgery

There is nooooooooooo doubt about it…

That first sneeze after open heart surgery can be quite uncomfortable. To help you manage the need to sneeze, Nerida just sent me an interesting recovery tip.

Sneeze After Heart Valve Surgery

She writes, “Hi Adam, I am three and a half weeks post op from an aortic valve replacement with a mechanical valve. I feel fantastic.  Your heart valve book and website have been a fantastic help for myself and my family over the last three months. Thank you so much! By the way, the best thing to do when you feel a sneeze coming on is to support your chest and keep your mouth open. Yes, it’s very un-hygienic but believe me it helps. Keep up the good work. And, keep on tickin! Nerida”

I hope Nerida’s little recovery tip helps all of you looking to avoid a painful sneeze during your early recovery.

Keep on tickin!

Learning About Robin William Heart Valve Surgery Thoughts!

Although heart valve surgery can be a very challenging process, my research suggests that most patients look back upon their surgical experience as a transformational ticket to a “second chance” at life.

That said… Here is Robin Williams, the comedian and Oscar-award winning actor, describing his thoughts on heart valve surgery, the emotions it conjures, second chances and more.

If you are interested, here are some additional blogs related to this topic:

Keep on tickin!

P.S. To leave a comment, please click here.

“Did Your Enlarged (Dilated) Left Ventricle Return To Normal Size After Surgery?” Asks Sandra

I just received a great question from Sandra about heart valve disease, enlarged hearts and valve surgery.

Sandra writes, “Hi Adam, I read that you had an enlarged heart before your surgery. I was wondering if it has returned to normal size since the surgery?  I had mitral valve repair due to severe mitral regurgitation and an aneurysm repair in July 2008. I was told that my heart was enlarged and that it may not return to its original size. I exercised quite vigorously before my diagnosis thinking that my shortness of breath was due to being ‘out of shape’. The more short of breath I became, the harder I exercised. Now, I am wondering if this caused the heart to enlarge even more. My echo at 4 months post-op showed the heart still enlarged. I go again in September for another echo and I’m curious to see if it has returned to normal. Thanks, Sandra”

Enlarged heart Next To A Normal Heart Size - Medical Diagram

Sandra is definitely correct. I did have an enlarged heart when I was diagnosed with severe aortic stenosis. (To learn more about stenosis, click here.)

In fact, I’ll never forget when my cardiologist, Dr. Bad Bedside Manner, looked at my echo and said, “Adam… The echo shows your valve has really deteriorated… Your heart has already dilated a bit… You need a new valve. And, you need it soon!”

After that memorable moment, I did a lot of research on heart valve disease (which I knew very little about) and its impact on cardiac function. I learned that when the aortic valve becomes narrowed, the muscles of the left ventricle thicken to maintain pump function and cardiac output.

According to MedicineNet, “This muscle thickening causes a stiffer heart muscle which requires higher pressures in the left atrium and the blood vessels of the lungs to fill the left ventricle… Even though these patients may be able to maintain adequate and normal cardiac output at rest, the ability of the heart to increase output with exercises is limited by these high pressures… As the disease progresses, the increasing pressure eventually causes the left ventricle to dilate, leading to a decrease in cardiac output and heart failure.”

Given that background on stenosis and enlarged ventricles, I think I can better answer Sandra’s question.

According to my last echocardiogram (shown below), which was performed three years after my heart valve replacement surgery, the size of my left ventricle is normal. In addition, it’s also important to note that my left ventricular ejection fraction was normal, at 65%.

Excerpt From Adam’s Last Echo (December, 2008)

I hope this helps you better understand valvular disorders and their impact on the cardiac muscle, specifically the left ventricle.

Keep on tickin!

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