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Thomas to Undergo Aortic Valve Surgery

The Wizards announced a short while ago that Etan Thomas will undergo surgery to repair a leak of the aortic valve in his heart tomorrow. The situation is not thought to be life threatening and neither Thomas nor the team has discussed his basketball future.

The team said it would have more information following the procedure. I've done a little research via the web and it appears that the procedure is pretty common though I haven't been able to track down whether any athletes have had the procedure and continued playing.

Any heart experts out there? Your input would be appreciated.

By Ivan Carter  |  October 10, 2007; 5:15 PM ET
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Wish the best to ET!

Posted by: FC to tha Wizzo | October 10, 2007 6:00 PM | Report abuse

Get well Etan! I'd rather see you boxing with Brendan than retiring early anyday.

Posted by: Jim | October 10, 2007 6:12 PM | Report abuse

Hi Ivan,

I just asked my wife. She's not a heart specialist, but is an MD. She said it's a serious procedure, but the degree of severity is determined by what type of surgery it is (apparently there are different types of aortic valve surgeries), and which valve is being replaced. She said that it "certainly" could be season- or career-ending, but isn't necessarily one or the other. It just depends.

Our prayers are with you, Etan.


Posted by: Keithinator | October 10, 2007 6:21 PM | Report abuse

"Any heart experts out there? Your input would be appreciated."

Far from an expert, I have heart palpations similar to that of some bball players who heart rate shoots to the moon and need medicine to bring it back down to normal. Kinda sucks.

Anyway, I wish Etan the best and will be/have been saying prayers for him. I was pretty much in shock when I heard.

If I understand it correctly basically when the heart leaks blood isn't exactly going to the right way as it should. It can cause fatigue, symptoms to what I have, ect.. I'm sure with all of the problems that bball players have had over the years they check that pretty regularly.

Here's a link that can better explain it:

The scary thing about your heart is that you never know until something bad happens that you have something wrong. I wouldn't consider it non-life threatening at all.

I think it's pretty serious and I feel for Etan.

- Ray

Posted by: Ray | October 10, 2007 6:24 PM | Report abuse

Get well soon, Etan!

Posted by: Lisa | October 10, 2007 6:27 PM | Report abuse

Agreed! All the best for Etan.

Posted by: mjwies11, D.C. | October 10, 2007 6:43 PM | Report abuse

At least it isn't hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, which kills many young people, including athletes. Many of the young basketball and football players that have died suddenly have had HCM. If this is discovered before death, medication and/or surgery is the treatment.

I would suggest that he have this work done at The Cleveland Clinic. The "Mistake by the Lake" has one of the best heart facilities in the world.

Hopefully his aortic valve surgery won't be too extensive and he can return to a normal life.

Best of luck to him.

Posted by: 62 Year Old with HCM | October 10, 2007 6:43 PM | Report abuse

I'm sure Abe is involved with Etan's medical situation. Since his own open-heart surgery was performed at the Cleveland facility, I'm certain it figured in the discussions.

Posted by: joe c | October 10, 2007 6:58 PM | Report abuse

Hope all goes well for Etan. Ivan, any word where a Wizards Fan can forward a card to extend him our best wishes.

He's possibly played his whole career with this condition because many times it's a birth defective. Etan has to consider himself lucky it was caught before he had an attack and hopefully hasn't suffered heart damage.

I'd agree with Ray, no such thing as a minor heart problem. I know I'll be thinking about him, been under the knife a few times, but they've never opened up my chest. That's really serious stuff, been through it with a family member, and it's not a short recovery time.

Posted by: GM | October 10, 2007 7:31 PM | Report abuse

Get well soon Etan!

Posted by: Patty | October 10, 2007 7:40 PM | Report abuse

Are the doctors going to repair the valve or replace it?

Posted by: John Brisker | October 10, 2007 7:44 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: darnell&family | October 10, 2007 7:50 PM | Report abuse

My son who is two has the same condition of Thomas since birth but has not worsen since birth (it can never get better). He has no restrictions on what he can or cannot do. Since they just now caught this I am guessing his valve was allowing a good amount of blood back into the heart. From what I have gained from the specialists, since thomas is older than 18 percentages are with him that this will be a one time surgery and should not end his career.

Posted by: Robert | October 10, 2007 7:52 PM | Report abuse

My prayers are with you Etan stay strong. The Devil cant hold you down.

Posted by: Sexy Agent 0 | October 10, 2007 7:59 PM | Report abuse

Minn. Timberwolves G/F Fred Hoiberg had surgery to repair an ascending aortic aneurysm a couple of years ago. He had to retire as a result, but his health is fine.

I had the surgery in 2005 and also am doing fine. If Thomas gets a mechanical heart valve, it will last him for the rest of his life but he will have to take blood thinners for life. His career may be in jeopardy.

Posted by: Big Jon | October 10, 2007 8:05 PM | Report abuse

Best wishes to ET for successful surgery and a speedy recovery.

Posted by: Mitch | October 10, 2007 8:06 PM | Report abuse

I am no expert, but I am an athlete. Following the death of the Sevilla F.C. player last month on the pitch in the Spanish La Liga, this is definitely a serious matter. I do find it interesting though that it is just now, after so many years in the league, this has been discovered. Was that a condition he always had, or did it suddenly develop overnight is my question.

Posted by: Jeanjak | October 10, 2007 8:09 PM | Report abuse

Wow, I really hope Etan recovers from this. Best case would be that his career continues. But perhaps we've already gotten the best case - that this has been found out which prevented him from dying on the court.

Best of luck, Etan! Peace Out.

Posted by: sfam | October 10, 2007 8:11 PM | Report abuse

my father had the same valve replaced a few years back, but he is in his 60's and not and athelete. For what it's worth, one year post-surgery he said he felt 10 years younger, started an exercise program and lost a good deal of weight for the first time in 30years.
Essentially, his heart had been working at 80% efficiency for years, but he hadn't known that. When it got back up to 100%,he felt better than he had in years. But I have no idea how that translates to a professional athlete's lifestyle -- an old man getting on a treadmill at last still isn't putting the same stress on his new valve than an NBA player must day in and day out.
It's also worth noting that there is a long recovery period -- a matter of months to resume normal activities. There may also be dietary restrictions after surgery. Depending on the particular conditions of Etan's heart, they could replace his valve with a valve from a human cadaver, a valve from a pig, or a mechanical valve. If he's forced to get the mechanical valve, it changes his diet pretty radically -- although I think it would force him onto the sort of high-protein diet that he might already be on, since he's always been a gym rat.
Best of luck to him, and I hope we can hear from an actual cardiologist who can tell us if my impressions are completely wrong.

Posted by: sct | October 10, 2007 8:13 PM | Report abuse

I'm a cardiologist, and I can tell you that Etan will do well with surgery, and should be able to return to playing in the NBA .... depending on the type of heart valve he gets. If he gets a mechanical valve, he'll need a blood thinner and won't be able to play. For young people, that's the way to go because it will last years longer than a pig or cow valve. I biologic valve doesn't require blood thinner, however, and Etan may opt for that since it will allow him to play.

The best option is a Ross procedure. Probably only a couple of surgeons in the DC area who are really good at it. The Cleveland Clinic is a good way to go. So is Hopkins, or for that matter MCV in Richmond. Good surgeons can do this with their eyes closed and have him playing full throttle next year.....

Posted by: joshisandeep2 | October 10, 2007 8:48 PM | Report abuse


Posted by: WizFan | October 10, 2007 9:01 PM | Report abuse

Aw man.

Right now all basketball questions take a back seat. I hope the surgery goes without complications and that Etan can live a full life, regardless of what it means for his basketball career.

I send my wishes for a full recovery!

Posted by: iceberg | October 10, 2007 9:21 PM | Report abuse

Etan bball is not important when your heart is not well..may god continue to be with you during your recovery and life.

Posted by: James | October 10, 2007 9:28 PM | Report abuse

All the best wishes for Etan Thomas and this surgery! I hope this doesn't ruin his career, and that he's able to return and make a full recovery. We're rooting for you, Etan!

Posted by: warriorpoet7281 | October 10, 2007 9:36 PM | Report abuse

Good Luck ET. You have a lot of friends out here rooting for you.

Posted by: Bags | October 10, 2007 9:48 PM | Report abuse

All the best ET......bball or have it in front of you

Posted by: 5jabi | October 10, 2007 10:17 PM | Report abuse

I have enjoyed reading the posts above. Good job everyone.
I have no clue whether this is true or not, but some information I've read and comments like sct's above make me wonder whether this condition might explain some of what we've seen from Etan in the past. For example, remember how he started last season like a beast, but peetered out after a few games? I wonder if this diagnosis might have answered a number of questions that Etan was wondering about for years.
Good luck, Etan. It took this franchise decades to find a poetry-writing center with braids, so don't go leaving us now.

Posted by: Sean | October 10, 2007 10:17 PM | Report abuse

Etan, we're pulling for you. May God carry you through this crisis. My prayers are with you and your family.

Posted by: BmoreRev | October 10, 2007 10:20 PM | Report abuse

ET, you always played with heart, so I'm praying for you to get through this. Best wishes, we love you man!

Posted by: Juan DC | October 10, 2007 10:27 PM | Report abuse

go to the web site at the cleveland clinic for a good overview and discussion on the options...

Posted by: dj | October 10, 2007 10:37 PM | Report abuse

Let's all pause for a momemt of silent prayer tomorrow at 1100am asking the Creator to bless the hands that operate on Etan.

May his procedure go smoothly and his recovery be speedy.

May God bless the family with peace and courage.

Posted by: ET Fan Too | October 10, 2007 10:52 PM | Report abuse

"comments like sct's above make me wonder whether this condition might explain some of what we've seen from Etan in the past. For example, remember how he started last season like a beast, but peetered out after a few games? I wonder if this diagnosis might have answered a number of questions that Etan was wondering about for years."

I doubt if the effect would be cumulative over a few games. More like it would take it's toll over the course of a game, early fatiguability. I am not a close follower of the Wizards, but is he more effective off the bench than starting?

Posted by: FP from elsewhere | October 10, 2007 11:24 PM | Report abuse

Courage, friend.

Posted by: Bill Carr | October 10, 2007 11:31 PM | Report abuse

I hope etan well, but am left wondering how this impacts the wizard's salary cap if he's not able to play again? Do they get a medically unable to play exemption and get his salary off the books?

Posted by: sp | October 11, 2007 12:11 AM | Report abuse

Get well fast, Etan. The world needs people like you... who actually care about the things that matter.

Posted by: khrabb | October 11, 2007 12:44 AM | Report abuse

Prayers? Seriously? You people are funny...=)

Instead, give your support to people like joshisandeep2 and his/her colleagues and make donations (money and/or organs if possible) to their research. Thanks to them, it seems as if Etan's future will be bright. Keep up the good work guys!

Posted by: Salle | October 11, 2007 6:03 AM | Report abuse

Good luck ET.

I second GM's request for info on sending cards for well wishes.

Posted by: pg posse | October 11, 2007 8:46 AM | Report abuse

Etan: I wish you well because your heart is needed for not only basketball, but for the courage to continue speaking out about injustices. Keep your pen in hand during recovery. Best wishes.

Posted by: orange | October 11, 2007 8:50 AM | Report abuse

Heed the call Etan, you must now transition to a life of art and activism, it was meant to be.

Posted by: Universe calling | October 11, 2007 10:13 AM | Report abuse

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