Barbara Walters Prepares for Heart Surgery

Doctors will replace Walters' aortic valve.

ByABC News
May 10, 2010, 7:50 PM

May 11, 2010— -- Barbara Walters said on Monday that her upcoming heart surgery, a procedure known as an aortic valve replacement, will hopefully correct a problem of which she and her doctors have been aware for some time.

Walters, 80, finally went public on Monday when she announced on "The View" that she will undergo surgery to replace the faulty heart valve later this week.

"You know how I always say to you how healthy I am. ... I've never missed a day's work," she began. "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 told ABC Senior Health and Medical Editor Dr. Richard Besser that the problem was detected during an echocardiogram of her heart -- a scan that she told the audience of "The View" 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.

She added that she and her doctors decided to go through with the heart valve replacement surgery now because she'll be able to take time off to recover during the summer and that her doctors expect her to make a full recovery and to be back at work in the fall.

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.

ABC News president David Westin said in statement, "There's no denying that this is serious surgery. But it's also a type of surgery that has been done often and successfully. And, as those of us who work with Barbara know, she's in excellent condition. So, we have every reason to expect a great result and a speedy recovery."