Elizabeth Taylor's Latest Health Crisis

The glamour icon has led a life full of near-death experiences.

ByABC News
October 7, 2009, 1:00 AM

Oct. 7, 2009 -- Actor and Hollywood glamour icon Elizabeth Taylor sent out a message on Twitter Tuesday, telling her fans that she is going in for heart surgery and requesting prayers.

The operation is "very new and involves repairing my leaky valve using a clip device, without open heart surgery so that my heart will function better," the tweet read.

The laparoscopic operation that Taylor, 77, will undergo is, indeed, experimental.

"It's called MitraClip," says Dr. Edward Verrier, professor of cardiovascular surgery at the University of Washington in Seattle. "It's an unproven but new technology that's being introduced as a potential alternative to open-heart surgery."

The procedure is considered less invasive than traditional open-heart surgery. Less invasive surgery means fewer variables in the operating room, such as heart and lung machines.

As for her chances, "That's very individual." Verrier said. "She could have a lot of medical conditions only she and her doctors know about."

In her seven decades, Taylor has had her share of medical problems, debilitating conditions, painful injuries and freak accidents.

She has had anywhere from 30 to 40 surgeries, according to biographers.Her battle with her body began on the set of one of her earliest films, the 1944 classic film "National Velvet." During one of her horseback riding scenes, she fell, injuring her back.

In 1960, she became ill with pneumonia and had to undergo a tracheotomy. She believed, as did her rivals for the Academy Award that year, that it was public sympathy for her near demise that garnered her the gold statuette for "Butterfield 8."

"She can't just have an illness," her co-star in the 1956 film "Giant" told the London Times in 2000. "She has to be Camille on her deathbed. "

The tabloids have mercilessly covered her battle with her weight. The actress, who is about 5-feet-2-inches tall, has weighed as much as 180 pounds and has gone up and down.

In 1983, Taylor checked herself into the Betty Ford Clinic in California for treatment of alcohol addiction. She would later require treatment for addiction to painkillers.

In 1990, in a case eerily similar to that of her her friend Michael Jackson, prosecutors found that doctors had over-prescribed pain medication to ease her back pain, a medical expert said in a report.

"The records reveal Taylor has suffered from substance abuse for many years, principally involving pain medication and alcohol," the report said.

No charges were ever filed against the doctors.