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Like any type of surgery, an aortic valve replacement is associated with a number of complications. Fortunately, serious problems are uncommon.

The risk of experiencing complications is generally higher for older people and those in generally poor health.

Possible problems include:

  • Infection – there's a risk of wound infections, lung infections, bladder infections and heart valve infections (endocarditis). You may be given antibiotics to reduce this risk.
  • Excessive bleeding – tubes may be inserted into your chest to drain the blood, and sometimes another operation is needed to stop the bleeding.
  • Blood clots – this is more likely if you have had mechanical valve replacement. You'll be prescribed anticoagulant medication if you're at risk.
  • Stroke or transient ischaemic attack (TIA) – where the supply of blood to the brain becomes blocked.
  • The valve may wear out – this is more likely in people who have had a biological valve replacement for a long time.
  • Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) – this affects around 25% of people after an aortic valve replacement and usually passes with time. But 1 to 2% of people will need to have a pacemaker fitted to control their heartbeat.
  • Kidney problems – in up to 5% of people, the kidneys don't work as well as they should for the first few days after surgery. In a few cases, temporary dialysis may be needed.

An aortic valve replacement is a major operation and occasionally the complications can be fatal.

Overall, the risk of dying as a result of the procedure is estimated to be 1 to 3%.

But this risk is far lower than the risk associated with leaving severe aortic disease untreated.