Dame Elizabeth Taylor to Undergo Heart Surgery

Screen legend Elizabeth Taylor has been hospitalized to undergo a repair of a leaky heart valve. The 77 year-old sent the following message out on Twitter:

“Dear Friends, I would like to let you know before it gets in the papers that I am going into the hospital to have a procedure on my heart. It’s very new and involves repairing my leaky valve using a clip device, without open heart surgery, so that my heart will function better.”

The mitral valve is one of four heart valves which help direct the flow of blood through the heart. The mitral valve lies between the left atrium, which receives oxygenated blood from the lungs, and the left ventricle, which pumps this blood to the rest of the body.
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Valves may be either too tight (aka stenosis) or too loose or floppy (aka regurgitation or insufficiency).  Either problem can cause abnormalities in the way the blood flows through the heart and, if severe enough, cause symptoms of shortness of breath,fatigue, congestive heart failure, stroke, or even sudden death.If mitral regurgitation becomes symptomatic, the most common repair is an open heart operation the valve is replaced. The floppy valve is surgically removed and a new one (either a manufactured valve or a natural valve removed from pig) is put in its place. Open heart surgery means that a patient has to be put on a heart-lung bypass machine while the surgeon opens the chest to work on the heart.

Some patients, especially those with other medical conditions, may be too weak to tolerate an open heart procedure. For these patients with mitral regurgitation, a relatively new procedure may be helpful. During the procedure, called a mitral valve clip, a long catheter (tube) is inserted into a large blood vessel in the groin. The catheter is then threaded up into the heart and through to the mitral valve. Tiny clips are then passed through the catheter and attached to the leaflets of the mitral valve to tighten them up. The catheter is removed, leaving the clips in place. I have found a video, on the Science Daily website, which explains this procedure: To watch, click here.

For more information:

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Valvular insufficiency

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Mark Boguski, M.D., Ph.D. is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and is a member of the Society for Participatory Medicine, "a movement in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health" and in which professional health care providers encourage "empowered patients" and value them as full partners in managing their health and wellness.

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