Risks of an aortic valve replacement 

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. However, 1-2% of people will need to have a pacemaker fitted to control their heartbeat.
  • Kidney problems – in up to 5% of people, the kidneys do not 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 1-3%.

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

Page last reviewed: 12/02/2016

Next review due: 01/02/2019