Larson Undergoes Heart Surgery

HealthBarack ObamaDemocratic PartyRahm EmanuelSaint Francis CarePolitics

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - U.S. Rep. John Larson underwent elective heart valve replacement surgery Tuesday for a condition a spokesman said the congressman has known about for several years.

Larson, the fourth highest-ranking Democrat in the House, was resting comfortably after a successful procedure and is expected to make a full recovery, said Barry Feldman, a spokesman for the congressman.

"He had a congenital defect in his aortic valve," said Feldman. "He and his physicians have known that at some time surgery would be necessary."

Larson did not have any symptoms, and felt fine, Feldman said. He decided to undergo surgery during the congressional recess, "when it wasn't an emergency situation, and at a time when the recuperation and prognosis is better than it would be later, when the condition might cause some damage," Feldman said.

Larson, who is completeing his sixth term in the House, serves as chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, a position he took over last November when Rep. Rahm Emanuel became President Barack Obama's chief of staff.

Feldman said Larson decided not to make the condition public before now, "just because he wanted to limit the discussion before he had the surgery." He would not elaborate.

Nancy DiNardo, chairwoman of the Connecticut Democratic Party, said she didn't see anything wrong with Larson waiting to announce his heart condition until after Tuesday's surgery.

"People have medical problems all the time," she said. "Until there's a decision on what to do about it, even people involved in public life have the right to make a decision on what they're going to do before they begin to comment on it."

DiNardo added, "I'm certainly happy everything was successful and I'm sure the congressman will be back working as soon as he can."

Feldman said Larson is expected to be released from the hospital in four or five days and plans to be back on the job in September when Congress reconvenes.

Feldman said Larson was confident having the surgery at Saint Francis Hospital and Medical Center, despite recent problems with the hospital's cardiac program.

The hospital voluntarily suspended elective heart procedures for a week last month while the state Department of Public Health investigated the maintenance records of heart and lung machines in the operating room.

The health department has not said what led to the investigation.

"All of the questions that the congressman may have had (about the program) were satisfactorily answered, said Feldman. ----

Associated Press Writer Dave Collins contributed to this report

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