Christine Stuart photo

U.S. Rep. John B. Larson is expected to make a full recovery from his scheduled heart surgery Tuesday and his doctor says he will be back in Washington D.C. by September.

Dr. Daniel Diver—Larson’s cardiologist and chief of cardiology at Saint Francis Hospital—said the two-hour surgery to replace an aortic valve was successful. Diver said Larson’s valve replacement was done to correct a congenital defect.

“In the modern era we take this step prior to it causing any problems with the heart muscle or cardiac function,” Diver said.

“We anticipate he will be discharged from the hospital in the next four to five days,” Diver said.

Diver explained that Larson, 61, was born with a bicuspid aortic valve, which means he had two leaflets instead of the normal three. Diver said the presence of two instead of three valves means that over time, Larson’s heart could have developed scarring—which could tighten the valve and limit blood flow. He said Larson never experienced any of the symptoms related to a tightening valve.

“The heart itself is quite healthy,” Diver said. “We think we did it at just right time.”

Diver said Dr. William Martinez performed the surgery, but would not say if the valve Larson was given was made from pig tissue. He said that pig tissue is just one of the many tissues used in this type of valve replacement surgery, but declined to say whether it was the type of tissue used on Larson. He did say it was a tissue valve and not a mechanical valve.

Why not make Larson’s surgery public before Tuesday?

Christine Stuart photo

“It was never clear whether he would have to have the surgery at all,” Barry Feldman, a close family friend said Tuesday.

“The Congressman wanted to preserve his own privacy with respect to this very personal issue,” Feldman said explaining why the announcement wasn’t made until after the surgery had been completed.

Feldman said Larson’s decision to undergo surgery now had nothing to do with the ongoing national health care reform debate. He said Larson looked at his calendar and decided now was the time to have it done. He said it was the only five-week period Larson had off over the next year, noting that next year is an election year which means he will be busy.

Larson, a six-term congressman and chairman of the House Democratic caucus, is the second member of Connecticut’s Congressional delegation to make a public announcement about a personal health issue. Last week U.S. Sen. Chris Dodd announced that he had prostate cancer and would be undergoing surgery during the August recess.

“Jackie and I wish John a speedy recovery; he and his wife Leslie are in our thoughts and prayers,” Dodd said. “John is a man of boundless energy and unwavering dedication to his work. I know he’ll be back in the House of Representatives at the end of recess, fighting for his constituents in the First Congressional District, the state, and our nation.”