Top Marine General Is Back At Work After Health Scare

According to US Marine authorities, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Eric Smith was out of commission for four months after heart surgery following a severe cardiac arrest that occurred on October 29, 2023. He returned to duty on March 5, 2023.

He had a heart attack while jogging near his residence in Washington, D.C., and ended up in the hospital in October 2023, which was caused by the abnormality. On January 8th, General Smith had open heart surgery to fix a bicuspid aortic valve.

Smith, who was sworn in as commander of the Marine Corps barely one month before his medical crisis, will now formally assume the position after he has recovered.

His predecessor retired in the summer of 2023, and Smith became the commandant and associate commandant of the Marine Corps.

According to physicians, his cardiac arrest was caused by a bicuspid aortic valve, a birth defect in which the aortic valve has just two leaflets rather than three. In preparation for his operation, Smith was discharged from the hospital on November 15, 2023.

According to Johns Hopkins, a bicuspid aortic valve (BAV) is a defect characterized by the absence of one of the normal three leaflets. A person is born with this genetic defect, but it can be triggered by other cardiac issues.

It may take years before BAV becomes a problem. When a heart valve becomes regurgitated or stenotic, it means the heart has to work harder to deliver the blood throughout the body. Heart failure may result from the additional workload.

To replace or fix an aortic valve, surgery may be necessary. According to a medical journal,  that may include minimally-invasive techniques and general anesthesia or open-heart surgery requiring general anesthesia. One less invasive option is transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), which is usually recommended by doctors depending on the patient’s medical circumstance.