It was quite a surprise when Barbara Walters announced on The View that she would be having heart surgery this week to replace her aortic valve. At 80, she is still one of the busiest, most visible news personalities on the air.
"You know how I always say to you how healthy I am. ... I've never missed a day's work," Walters said. "Later this week, I'm going to have surgery to replace one faulty heart valve. Lots of people have done this, and I have known about this condition for a while now."
Walters was calm and optimistic about the procedure. But it is major, open-heart surgery and requires a long recovery time. Part of the reason her surgery is scheduled now is to allow her to recover over the summer and return to work in the fall.
From ABC News:
“Walters told ABC Senior Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser that the problem was detected during an echocardiogram of her heart -- a scan that revealed that her valves were "getting tighter and smaller." Since this test, her doctors have been following the progression of the problem, anticipating that her aortic valve would eventually need to be replaced. Recently, Walters said, she has experienced some pressure in her upper chest.
“The aortic valve is, in effect, the exit door of the heart. It is through this gateway that the blood is pumped to the rest of the body. With time, the valve can harden and become less effective at keeping blood from flowing in reverse. This hardening is known as stenosis. It can worsen to the point that it can severely affect health -- and, if untreated, it can lead to early death.
“For this reason, surgery is often necessary to correct the problem before it progresses.
“According to the American Heart Association, surgeons in the United States performed 17,592 aortic valve procedures in 2007. On average, these patients spent only eight days in the hospital after their surgeries. The risk of complications associated with this procedure, including death, is less than 5 percent, doctors say.”
Although Walters has known about her condition for some time, she told her co-hosts on The View that she hadn’t noticed a difference in how she felt.