May 18, 1979

Complications of Artificial Heart Valves

Author Affiliations

From the Division of Cardiology, University of Oregon Health Sciences Center, Portland.

JAMA. 1979;241(20):2201-2203. doi:10.1001/jama.1979.03290460061028

DESPITE continuing advances in cardiac valve surgery, it remains clear that valve replacement with any prosthesis is a palliative and not a curative procedure.1 Every patient with an artificial heart valve is subject to an ongoing risk of a variety of complications that vary with different prostheses but that are common to most. Follow-up studies report that nearly half of all patients surviving valve replacement are dead or have experienced serious complications by ten years after operation.2 Meticulous medical management and a clear understanding of the more common problems with artificial valves are crucial in avoiding complications or in recognizing them early for prompt and appropriate care.

Infectious Endocarditis  Prosthetic-valve endocarditis is a continuing and life-threatening risk in patients with artificial heart valves. A valve prosthesis increases the patient's vulnerability to endocarditis and makes eradication of the infection difficult. Prosthetic endocarditis occurring early after operation (within 60 days)