Adam's Heart Valve Surgery Blog – Page 46

Keith’s Recovery Tip: Do Everything With Both Hands!

By Adam Pick on November 5, 2009

Here’s a great recovery tip from Keith about using both hands after open heart surgery. Keith writes…

Hi Adam,

We have traded emails several times before. I have mainly asked you for contacts of other patients (like myself) who needed heart valve replacement following radiotherapy for Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

I had my diseased aortic valve replaced exactly one week ago now (with a bovine valve) at the Mercy Hospital in Auckland, New Zealand. I came home after five nights and I’m surviving on just 4 paracetamol a day!



Continue reading this post »

“What About Port Access For Heart Valve Surgery?” Asks Taylor

By Adam Pick on October 31, 2009

I just received a great question from Taylor about heart valve replacement and heart valve repair options. Specifically, Taylor is curious to learn more about the Port Access System for the surgical treatment of aortic stenosis.

Taylor writes, “Hi Adam – I’m 62 years old and my cardiologist thinks I need heart valve replacement surgery due to stenosis in the aortic valve. The valve is narrow (.8 cm) and I’m starting to feel the symptoms – especially shortness of breath and fatigue. The docs have referenced the Port Access technique to replace the aortic valve. What do you know about the Port Access system? Thanks Taylor”


Port Access Surgery Diagram For Valve Replacement
Diagram Of The Port Access Technique


Taylor raises an insightful question which focuses on the different options by which surgeons perform heart valve replacement and heart valve repair surgery.

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“Are Flu Shots and Swine Flu Vaccines Safe After Heart Valve Surgery?” Asks Jackie

By Adam Pick on October 27, 2009

Considering the recent Swine Flu outbreak, I’ve received several emails about flu shots and heart valve surgery.

I just opened a note from Jackie that reads, “Hi Adam – I recently had mitral valve replacement with a pig valve due to severe regurgitation. I’m curious to know if there is any reason I >should not get a flu shot or an H1N1 vaccine? Thanks! Jackie”


Swine Flu Vaccine After Heart Surgery


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At 85, After Tissue Valve Replacement And Pacemaker Implant, Connie Keeps On Walking!

By Adam Pick on October 23, 2009

I just received a great patient story from Connie Batich. Considering that Connie’s note touches on so many elements of heart valve surgery – diagnosis, symptoms, second opinions, angiograms, vent tubes, a-fib, recovery – I thought you might appreciate reading about her experience. Here is what Connie wrote to me:


We both had heart valve surgery. Only difference.. You were 33 and I am 85!

I’ve had a heart murmur all my life. But, in 1996, I felt palpitations and went to a cardiologist who diagnosed stenosis of the aortic valve. Since then, I’ve seen a cardiologist yearly for an echocardiogram and stress test. Then, about two years ago, my cardiologist called me all excited that my stenosis was severe and I should have the valve replaced right then-and-there!


Connie Batich, Heart Valve Surgery Patient


Well, my family wanted a second opinion… So, I went to another cardiologist who said, “Well, let’s wait until you get symptoms.”

Continue reading this post »

“Metallic Taste After Heart Valve Surgery?” Asks Robin

By Adam Pick on October 23, 2009

I just received a set of emails from Robin about a metallic taste in her mouth after heart valve surgery. So you know, Robin is not the only patient to send me questions about this strange, surgical after taste.


Metal Taste In Mouth After Surgery


In his first email, Robin writes, “Ever since my aortic valve replacement surgery I have had a nasty metallic taste in my mouth.  It gets especially bad if I eat anything sweet. The cardiologist theorizes that it is a by product of the heart-lung machine. Anybody else experience it? Anybody have any ideas of how to get rid of it? Thanks, Robin”

Then, I received a follow-up note from Robin with a short-term remedy to this issue.

Here is what Robin writes, “Since I last wrote to you I found a website that suggested gargling with water and a 1/4 tsp of baking soda.  It worked!!!  It brought relief at least for a few hours.  Ultimately, the bad taste did go away on its own, but the baking soda gets a great assist. Robin”

Thanks Robin for sharing your remedy!

Keep on tickin!

Adam Says, “Thank You! New Website Features Almost Here!”

By Adam Pick on October 22, 2009

Hey everybody,

When I launched this website years ago, I had two fundamental goals:

  • My first goal was to educate patients and caregivers about the realities of heart valve surgery.
  • My second goal was to empower you to make the right choices given your diagnosis and prognosis.

Over time, these goals have turned into one of my life passions. That passion has churned out a lot of blogs over the years. Today, this website has over 2,200 pages of free content to help you through heart valve surgery. As a result, my friends have started calling me the Dear Abby of heart valve surgery.


Adam & Ethan Pick
Me & Ethan (my 6-month old son)


Continue reading this post »

“Bleeding Gums, Coumadin & A-Fib After Heart Valve Surgery?” Asks Laura

By Adam Pick on October 22, 2009

Given the recent post about endocarditis, swine flu and heart valves, I’ve received several emails about these topics. Laura just sent me an interesting question asking for your help about dental cleanings, gum bleeding and atrial fibrilation.

Laura writes, “Hi Adam, I had double valve replacement surgery a little over a year ago and have been feeling very good. Then, I went to the dentist for my routine cleaning. I took my usual prophylactic antibiotics. My gums bled almost all day because of the Coumadin. Then, I started getting irregular beats that feel like borderline atrial fibrillation (a-fib). This happened to me six months ago as well. It took about 10 days for it to go away. Has anybody else had this experience? What can I do about it? Thanks, Laura”

Unlike Laura, I did not experience the complications referenced above. That said, I was hoping you might be able to help her. If you experienced issues with gum bleeding and a-fib after heart valve replacement or heart valve repair surgery, could you help her by leaving a comment below?

In advance, thanks for sharing your thoughts with Laura.

Keep on tickin!

“Is Heart Valve Surgery Common For My Age?” Asks Phil

By Adam Pick on October 18, 2009

I just received a very appropriate email from Phil about age groups and heart valve surgery.

Phil writes, “Hi Adam – On Friday, I was diagnosed with severe aortic stenosis due to a bicuspid aortic valve. I’m 48 years old with three great kids and a loving wife. This was a complete shock to me and I’ve spent the weekend digesting the uncomfortable news that open heart surgery awaits me. It’s odd. Although I knew about the murmur, I was told this wouldn’t impact my heart for 10 or 20 years. Now, the doc says the valve is calcified and surgery is a must. Is heart valve surgery common for my age group? Thanks, Phil”

Phil raises some excellent points in his question. In fact, Phil’s story brings back several memories specific to my own diagnosis and surgery. Like Phil, my valve disease rapidly progressed from moderate to severe aortic stenosis. Like Phil, I had a bicuspid aortic valve. Like Phil, I was told surgery would not occur until I was in my 50’s. (FYI, at the time of my surgery… I was thirty-three.)


Picture Of Calcified Heart Valve Leaflets


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Ethan’s 6-Month Update: Elmo, The Beach, Haircuts & More

By Adam Pick on October 18, 2009

Hi everybody,

Thanks for all of your emails about Ethan, our six-month old son.

So you know, Ethan is doing ab-soooooooo-luuuuutely wonderful. He’s been very, very, very busy adjusting to his new life and his new parents, Robyn (my wife) and me. Here’s the latest Ethan update:

  • Ethan watched his first Michigan Wolverines football game. As I went to Michigan for college, I was very happy to see him cheering for the right team.



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“Asthma Relief And Clear Lungs After Heart Valve Surgery!” Moos Don

By Adam Pick on October 17, 2009

I just received a great patient story from Annette about asthma and heart valve disease.  Here is what she writes:

Don, my husband, had his aortic valve replaced with a cow valve and his mitral valve repaired on July 21, 2009.  Prior to the surgery, Don suffered from severe asthma. His situation was so bad, eleven years ago, we moved from Illinois to Florida in hopes of helping his bad asthma. Unfortunately, the move did not help.


Patient After Receiving Cow Valve Aortic Replacement
Don Houdek – Double Heart Valve Replacement Patient


Well… Don and I are happy to report that – since his heart valve surgery – he has not taken any asthma medicine. At check-ups, Don’s lungs are showing up “clear” when the doctor listens to him.  I have to admit, this was one of the best perks of having his heart valves repaired and replaced.

Thanks so much for your heart surgery book which relieved our anxiety!

Annette Houdek

After Heart Valve Surgery, Anita Hikes, Climbs And Camps Through The Adirondacks!

By Adam Pick on October 14, 2009

I just received a fantastic, patient update from Anita. As you can read below, Anita is hiking and camping just six months after mitral valve repair surgery. Here is what Anita wrote to me:

Hi Adam,

As you may remember, I had mitral valve repair at The Cleveland Clinic on March 30, 2009. Doctor A. Marc Gillinov was my surgeon.

I am doing great. In fact, last weekend, Mike and I visited the Adirondack Mountains near Lake Placid, New York. The journey (hiking, camping, climbing) was magical.


Anita, Heart Valve Surgery Patient, With Mike


I climbed two of the “High Peaks” which required us to hike uphill for two miles as we reached a 3,800 foot elevation.  Each of the peaks had spectacular views at the top. I felt so happy and so grateful to see the all of the beauty that was present.

Continue reading this post »

Sarah’s Endocarditis, Swine Flu (H1N1 Virus) And Heart Valve Scare

By Adam Pick on October 14, 2009

I just received a roller coaster email from Sarah about endocarditis, swine flu (H1N1 virus) and heart valves that made my head spin. In the end, Sarah raises some great points for patients and caregivers about endocarditis, swine flu, fevers, false tests and dental work. Here is what she writes:


I just returned from a very scary 36 hours that landed me in the hospital with fears of endocarditis.

Last Friday, I called my primary care doctor because I had been fighting a cough, congestion and fever for over a week. She did a quick test for the flu, it came up negative. I told her that I had dental work to put on a crown about 10 days earler, two days before the fever started. Well, that set up a red flag for the possibility of a heart valve infection (endocarditis) even though I had used amoxicillin as advised by my doctor before the dental work.

Continue reading this post »

“Are Pleural Effusions Common After Heart Valve Surgery?” Asks Jan

By Adam Pick on October 10, 2009

Jan just sent me an interesting email about pleural effusions and heart valve surgery.

In her note, Jan writes, “Dear Adam, I am the caregiver of my 59-year old brother who had aortic valve replacement (with a bovine valve) at Vanderbilt University Hospital on July 13, 2009.  The valve itself has done okay but he has been in-and-out of the hospital twice since surgery. Fluid continues to collect between his chest wall and right lung. The fluid has been drained twice. Is this common? Thanks, Jan”


Pleural Effusion After Open Heart Surgery


It sounds to me like Jan’s brother is experiencing a post-operative complication known as a pleural effusion.

Continue reading this post »

Elizabeth Taylor’s Heart Valve Surgery, A MitraClip Success Story

By Adam Pick on October 10, 2009

Elizabeth Taylor just announced that her heart valve repair was successful, adding that “it is like having a brand new ticker.”

The message on her Twitter page comes two days after she announced she was having heart surgery at an undisclosed hospital to repair a leaky heart valve. In a short message, the Oscar-winner thanked fans.


 Elizabeth Taylor


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“Heart Valve Leakage After Surgery?” Asks Julie

By Adam Pick on October 8, 2009

I just received an excellent question from Julie about trace heart valve leakage after surgery.

Julie writes to me, “Hi Adam – My husband, who had mitral valve prolapse surgery on October 31, 2008, went for the annual check-up with his cardiologist. In review of the echocardiogram results, we were told that there was slight leakage in the mitral valve. The cardiologist told us that it was okay. But, when I asked him if the valve could require surgery again, he said that was possible. Do many patients experience heart valve leakage after surgery. Thanks, Julie and Jon!”

I can directly relate to the concern and worry that Julie carries regarding the trace regurgitation in Jon’s mitral valve.



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Video: Can Stem Cells Transform Into Heart Valves?

By Adam Pick on October 8, 2009

Considering my fascination with medical technology, I recently came across an interesting video about the use of stem cells to create heart valve replacements for the treatment of valvular disorders including aortic stenosis and mitral regurgitation. That said, I thought you might find this video very interesting:



In the past, I have written several stories about stem cell use for heart valve development. Here is one story which chronicles Dr. Magdi Yacoub’s ongoing research about heart valve replacements generated by stem cells.

Keep on tickin!

After Insurance Switch, Bobbie Gets Successful Heart Valve Repair By Dr. Greg Fontana

By Adam Pick on October 8, 2009

I just received a great patient story from Bobbie Ayala about insurance providers, misdiagnosis, her procedure and Dr. Fontana. Without further ado, here is what Bobbie wrote me:

Adam,  I have been reading your book and following the stories in your blogs for over a year.  The information that I received dispelled many of the fears I had about heart surgery.  I want to share my experience with you.

I am a 57 year old female.  I was diagnosed with aortic regurgitation and I also had a 75% colluded coronary artery.  I had seen a cardiac surgeon at Kaiser and he was absolutely no help.  His recommendation was to “wait and see”.  Furthermore, he made some comments to the effect that if I wanted surgery he could schedule it next week.  For the record his name was Dr. Pfeiffer (do not recommend).  Anyway, the experience was to say the least scary and awful.  Then I started reading your book and following your blog.  I realized that maybe this surgeon was also incorrect.


Bobbie Ayala After Heart Valve Surgery


In July, I was able to change my insurance from Kaiser to Blue Cross Anthem.  With my new insurance, I could choose the doctor and hospital I wanted.  First, I checked out the best Heart Hospitals in the United States and determined locally, the best was Cedars Sinai.  (I also contacted one of the doctors at Cleveland Heart Institute and was given the advise, “Do not wait!”)

Continue reading this post »

“Problems Sleeping After Heart Valve Surgery?” Asks Jenny

By Adam Pick on September 30, 2009

I just received a great question from Jenny about sleep after heart valve surgery.

Jenny writes, “Adam, I had mitral valve replacement seven days ago for regurgitation. I’m struggling a bit as I deal with the some of the post-operative challenges you address in your book. I’m really having an issue getting a good night of sleep. Sleeping at the hospital was tough enough. But, it’s gotten worse since I came home. I feel like a Zombie. And, the night sweats continue. Is this common? Thanks, Jenny”



Over the years, I have spoke many patients – especially tummy sleepers – that have expressed several sleep problems following heart valve surgery. Some of those problems include:

  • Inconsistent sleep, waking up often
  • Insomnia
  • Night sweats
  • Discomfort getting in and out of bed
  • Heart pounding noises
  • Mechanical valve replacement clicking

Finally, some patients may have an adverse reaction to medication intended to enhance sleep. Personally, I had a very, very, very strange reaction to Ambien. One night, after taking a 10mg Ambien pill, Robyn (my wife) found me sleepwalking through our house. When Robyn approached me, I responded to her as if I was a character in a book that I was reading. When I woke up the next morning, I had no memory of the episode. Needless to say, that was the last time I took Ambien.

As many former patients read this blog, maybe they can share their thoughts on this topic. Did you experience any problems sleeping after heart valve surgery? Scroll down to post a comment!

I hope this helps Jenny (and perhaps you) learn more about sleep after heart surgery.

Keep on tickin!

More About Traveling To The Cleveland Clinic For Heart Valve Surgery

By Adam Pick on September 30, 2009

As you may have seen, the recent post, Did You Travel For Heart Valve Surgery?, has generated a lot of interest and response – as over 25 patients and caregivers have commented.

I have also received several emails from patients wanting to know more about traveling to The Cleveland Clinic for heart valve repair and heart valve replacement surgery.

That said, I called The Cleveland Clinic on Monday to better understand the scale and scope of patients traveling to the world’s number one cardiac care center. I learned three great factoids (from their patient education team) that you might find interesting. For 2008:

  • More than 50% of Cleveland Clinic patients reside outside the state of Ohio;
  • Patients from 89 countries came to The Cleveland Clinic for cardiovascular care; and
  • Patients from all 50 states came to The Cleveland Clinic for cardiac surgery.

I hope this information helps you learn more about the patient profile at The Cleveland Clinic. To get direct patient feedback about surgeons at The Cleveland Clinic, please visit our Heart Surgeon Database.

Simply type “Cleveland” into the city search field. The search results will share actual patient experiences with the following cardiothoracic surgeons – Svensson, Roselli, Gillinov, Mihaljevic, Smedira, and Pettersson.

Keep on tickin!

Ironic: Vegetarian Kept Alive By Pig Valve Replacement?

By Adam Pick on September 30, 2009

I guess this patient success story would classify as ironic.

According to The Scottish Sun, a vegetarian teenager from Scotland, who was suffering from a rare cardiac condition, is now being kept alive by a pig heart valve replacement.



Robyn Cairney, 18, of Ruckazie, Glasgow was diagnosed with aortic stenosis and regurgitation after she collapsed at the gym. Over time, the condition caused her aorta to narrow, which allowed blood to dangerously flow back to her heart. The most common symptom is shortness of breath with exertion, resulting in some patients feeling “out of shape,” according to the American Heart Association.

“It came totally out of the blue,” Cairney told The Sun. “I was at the gym and became unwell during a mile run. I couldn’t breathe and wouldn’t stop coughing. Then my lips started turning blue and I knew that something was seriously wrong.”

When the valve becomes excessively obstructed or leaky, the valve must be repaired or replaced.

“The doctors told me that I would need to have a valve taken out and replaced by one from a pig,” Cairney said. “It was a bit of a shock being a vegetarian, but I realized it was a life or death choice. Obviously everyone is going to pick life, so now I’m a vegetarian being kept alive by a pig.”

Cairney was fitted with the pig’s valve during open heart surgery at the Golden Jubilee Hospital near Glasgow. This type of valve replacement could last for 20 years. Cairney may have to undergo surgery in the future to have a mechanical valve fitted.

“I’m just glad I can get on with my life now and am determined to make the most of everything I do,” she added.

Keep on tickin’ Robyn!

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