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Rep. John Larson Of Connecticut Recovering From Heart Valve Surgery


The Hartford Courant August 5, 2009



HARTFORD - Rep. John B. Larson on Tuesday evening was recovering from successful heart valve replacement surgery at St. Francis Hospital and Medical Center earlier in the day.


Doctors first discovered a congenital defect in Larson's aortic valve several years ago. Although his heart is "quite healthy," surgery was needed to correct the problem before he experienced symptoms of cardiac disease, said his cardiologist, Dr. Daniel Diver.


Larson, D-1st District, is the fourth most powerful member of the House of Representatives. He notified Speaker Nancy Pelosi and members of the state's congressional delegation of his impending hospitalization, though it was unclear Tuesday when he told them. He did not disclose his valve problem or his plans for open-heart surgery to voters until Tuesday afternoon, when the procedure was complete.


"The congressman just felt there would be more information and less speculation if there would be a public announcement at a time when there were more facts known," family spokesman Barry Feldman said.


Until the surgery, Larson had no way of knowing whether he had other coronary or vascular problems, said Feldman, who formerly served as general counsel at St. Francis. Feldman said the surgery showed no unexpected problems. "The congressman felt it was best to provide the information publicly at the time when we had the most information available," he said.


Larson, 61, will stay in the hospital for four or five days before recuperating at home while Congress is on its August recess, Feldman said. He expects to return to work in Washington in September.


Heart valve defects can be caused by a number of factors, including age and illness, or they can be congenital, as in Larson's case. He was diagnosed with aortic stenosis, or an abnormal narrowing of the aortic valve, after his physician detected a heart murmur and completed an echocardiogram.


There was no urgency to the surgery. "We were watching him and knew at some point he would need surgery," Diver said. "You want to do it before there's any impairment to the heart. … The risk is that you wait too long."


Left untreated, the aortic valve would slowly thicken and grow tighter, creating an obstruction and impeding blood flow, Diver said.


Valve surgery is a fairly standard operation — St. Francis completes about 350 such procedures each year.


Last month, St. Francis briefly suspended its elective cardiac surgery program at the recommendation of state health officials, who had raised concerns about the maintenance and training of staff on heart-lung machines that keep blood flowing during surgery.


Larson is the second member of the state's congressional delegation coping with a personal health issue. Last week, Sen. Christopher Dodd revealed he is fighting prostate cancer. He will undergo surgery later this month.


"Jackie and I wish John a speedy recovery," Dodd said in a statement. "John is a man of boundless energy and unwavering dedication to his work."

Copyright © 2009, The Hartford Courant


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