I want to thank you Adam, and everyone else here who has posted on this site! What a wealth of information and inspiration!!
I just saw the 2nd surgeon this past week at the University of Maryland Hospital.
I liked this surgeon better than the first one I saw at the end of November. I brought in the CDs with the images from the two T.E.E. (scope tests) and a recent echocardiogram.
He said it appears that I have moderate to severe regurgitation (blood flowing back into the heart from the damaged mitral valve) but said the images are not the greatest...so he wants me to have another T.E.E. done at University of Maryland Hospital (they do a 3D T.E.E test there....which is apparently much more precise).
He'll know better after the test...but he thinks it's an 80% chance he can repair the valve rather than replace it. I'm scared as heck of any heart surgery...but I guess a repair is better than a replacement.
Right now, a big problem is finding someone who can drive me up to Baltimore for the T.E.E....and take me home. It’s way too far for my wife (and she does not like driving on highways). Nothing is easy.
From what I have been researching, I had hoped to have the minimally invasive surgery, but unfortunately, it looks like the full "crack the chest, stop the heart" to access the mitral valve. .
I guess there is always a risk with any open heart surgery...but this surgeon said he does at least 250 surgeries a year like this...compared to most garden variety thoracic surgeons who may do 5 or 10 a year.
From what he indicated, the repair could be final (as long as there are no other complications, etc).
Aside from a general fear of surgery...I am apprehensive about valve replacement. From my little bit of research, the biological valves (pig or cow) can last 10-15 years, while mechanical valves (metal and plastic) could last 20-25 years (sometimes longer).
Biological valves don't require blood thinners, and apparently don't have as high a chance for re infection...but I'd be looking at another surgery around age 60-65 (if I live that long).
Lot of decisions but I need to get the 3D T.E.E. first before any decisions on surgery.