What Are The Common Open Heart Surgery Survival Rates?

By Adam Pick on August 16, 2007

I write this blog twenty months after open heart surgery. In 2005, I had a double heart valve replacement surgery via the Ross Procedure.

So you know, I am now fully recovered. I am back surfing after heart surgery and I just Scuba dived for the first time since my aortic and pulmonary valve replacements.

“Why I am I telling you this?”

I share this with you – the patient or caregiver – to help you understand that most patients do not die from open heart cardiac surgery. Trust me. The statistics are real.



Yes… There is some risk with open heart surgery.

However, on the whole, open heart surgery survival rates continue to improve. When I conducted my initial research for my book, The Patient’s Guide To Heart Valve Surgery, the open heart surgery survival rate was 97% or 98% (depending on the reference).

You should also know that some noninvasive heart surgery procedures (including robotic heart valve repair) maintain a mortality rate close to 0.0%, according to certain heart care centers.

Yes. You read that right! Zero percent!

Plus, surgical technology and medical science is rapidly advancing. That said, survival rates for specific procedures continue to improve. Consider that in 2003, the Cleveland Clinic’s inpatient mortality rate for isolated mitral valve repair was only 0.3%.

I hope this is helping you see that most heart surgeries result in life, not in death. If you would like to know more, please read “Dispelling The Fear Of Heart Surgery”.

I hope this helps you better understand open heart surgery survival rates!

Keep on tickin!

Written by Adam Pick
- Patient & Website Founder

Adam Pick, Heart Valve Patient Advocate

Adam Pick is a heart valve patient and author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery. In 2006, Adam founded HeartValveSurgery.com to educate and empower patients. This award-winning website has helped over 10 million people fight heart valve disease. Adam has been featured by the American Heart Association and Medical News Today.

Adam Pick is a heart valve patient and author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery. In 2006, Adam founded HeartValveSurgery.com to educate and empower patients. This award-winning website has helped over 10 million people fight heart valve disease. Adam has been featured by the American Heart Association and Medical News Today.

Rachel says on August 17th, 2007 at 12:34 pm

Hi, I am 19 and i am getting open heart for my valve. I am glad the survival rates are high. Glad your back to surfin! i ride dirtbikes and i cant wait to get surgery so i can get back on my bike and beat all the boys! also ill get to go to the gym and work out! (im also a model) i gotta be fit to be a model! haha Thanks for the encouragement

Mitchell says on April 30th, 2008 at 4:34 am

Hi, my name is Mitchell and I wanted to thank you for writing your blog about your experience with open heart surgery. My my mother is is 55 years old and will be going in for heart valve replacement very soon and I am extremely frightened for her. Your blog has has really reassured me that this will turn out well. Thank You.

Meghan says on June 2nd, 2008 at 9:03 pm

I’m 18 and doing a research project on CABG and I think it is really great that you are giving hope and reassurance to all open heart surgery patients. I agree with you because I have also found that it is a very regular procedure that has been almost perfected nowadays. My aunt just underwent the surgery recently and she’s doing great too. Have fun surfing!

Fabio Vasconcelos says on December 15th, 2008 at 9:50 pm

Hi, my name is Fabio, I was born in Brazil and currently live in Australia. I had my surgery to correct a malfunction on my aortic valve 11 years ago, in Brazil, and still is great shape (pear shape, since I picked up a few extra kilos alomg the way..) 🙂

Anyway, there is nothing to be afraid of. The surgery has a great survival rate and there are always new techniques being tested to improve even more the prognostics.

Good luck to everyone and a Merry Christmas!

Michael says on December 16th, 2008 at 7:27 pm

Your msg is positive and I’m happy for your healthy recovery. I am skeptical about your research figures however for overall valve repair/replacement. The only experience I have with this is first hand as I just lost a good friend to what was supposed to be a routine posterior valve repair. You see, what everyone must remember with any major surgery…it’s not the surgery that can necessarily be fatal, but the other complications that can arise. Stroke is definitely one of those things that can and does happen as it did with my friend. As far as his heart was concerned….you’re right – that was fine?!

Toro says on March 4th, 2010 at 9:36 am

Hi, Adam..
I’m glad to read your writing..
My dad will get open heart surgery, but his age is 67 years. Is it safe? How about its success rate?
Thanks for your response..

Michael Foyles says on April 9th, 2010 at 2:33 pm

had triple bypass and mitral valve repair February 1, 2010. am not back to work yet, but, am back to walking 2 miles and riding a recumbent bike 6 miles. have started to lift light weights and continue to improve with each day. thanks.

Marla says on September 12th, 2010 at 12:07 am

I just had a triple bypass about 10 days ago. I was terrified until my doctor said he gave me a 99% chance as only God could give 100%. Although I am in quite a bit of pain, I am here and happy to have another chance. This surgery has a long recovery, but is well worth the second chance.

lillian delaurentiis says on September 30th, 2010 at 4:01 pm

hi adam thank you for the insight; i’ll be getting my valve replaced in 3-5 days at hartford ct. st. francis hospital..now that i have more knowledge from you; i already feel better; thanks again lillian delaurentiis

jim ronald says on October 16th, 2010 at 7:53 pm

Hi adam my wife is waiting on a triple bypass,Since we where told the news she now feel a death sentence has been past over on her (thinking the worst)all the information we have read on your site has been reassuring and very helpful thank you this is just what we needed tonight the words of people who can comment !!!!!!!!

Donna Price says on December 9th, 2010 at 11:17 am

I am glad to hear the survival rate is so good. I have a friend who is having the surgery and it scared me because my father died having the surgery. It was done in 1977 and his chances of survival at that time were 75%. My son has the same heart valve problem as my dad and I’m glad to know it is not necessarily life threatening.

John says on December 15th, 2010 at 9:27 pm

I am 45. Had an open heart mitral valve repair on Oct 14th of this year. Had a pacemaker put in 2 days later because my electrical rhythm never quite returned to normal after the surgery (common problem with valve work). I still have short goofy feelings (mostly because of beta blockers), my nerves in that area are touchy, I’m still a little sore throughout the day, and I tire easily depending on how hard my day is–MY LIFE IS SO MUCH BETTER. Sometimes I forget I wear a pacemaker too. I was scared to death before surgery but after some reassurance by family, web research, and advice from my doctors–I made it. Stay positive and think happy thoughts going in to the surgery–you will survive–and it’s only 5 hours out of your life!

Bob McGuinness says on December 29th, 2010 at 10:24 pm

Hi Adam. I am going to be getting an aortic valve and a section of my aorta replaced in the next few weeks. My heart cath was a huge relief as no stints were needed and it was determined that my arteries are clear and open, so there will be no further complications to the procedure. Reading your comments have made me feel more confident since they support what my doctors are also saying, but it’s good to hear this from an unbiased source. Let me echo the others here in offering my thanks to you. Thanks! Bob

jim ronald says on April 5th, 2011 at 6:18 am

Good afternoon we last commented on this page on october 2010 before my wife was due to go threw her triple heart bypass its now april 2011 5 months has passed and the operation was a complete success thanks to staff at golden jubilee hospital glasgow it has been an uphill struggle with fitness but now we have a new lease of life i know fear of the operation was bad but there is light at the end of the tunnell thanks for information the information we received jim and corinne

Brad says on July 4th, 2011 at 2:50 am

It is good to read about success stories. My sister is having valve replacement surgery at Hoag Hospital in Newport Beach using a pig’s valve in two days. I will be sure to let you know how it goes and show her this blog.

Bob McGuinness says on July 4th, 2011 at 12:43 pm

I had my aortic valve and aorta replaced in January, as I noted above. Everything went great and I was back home in 5 days. I needed to be careful for a while as my sternum healed, but now it’s July and I’m back doing everything I had been prior to the surgery. Cardio rehab was 21 sessions of progressive exercise monitored by the staff. It went so well that I’m back with them just so I can stay exercising regularly! And I managed to make it back to work in two months instead of the three that I had been given to recoup. All is well and I wish the very best to all who undergo this procedure. Healthy going in with a good attitude helped me, I’m sure. Now, if I can just get people to stop coddeling me…!

Kevin Hightower says on July 4th, 2011 at 3:09 pm

I just wanted to share a story that I think anyone having any kind of open heart surgery can take comfort in.

I am currently living temporarily with my 73 year-old aunt while she waits the six-week-period they told her not to drive in.

Going into it, of course my mom (her sister) and I were worried for her as she was scheduled for a double bypass, but bypasses seem so common now, we did not realize what she was in for, because we haven’t had heart surgeries.

We arrived at St. Lukes in Houston where we live at 6 AM and I think some unexpected emergencies came up because she did not get into a room just before they prepped her until noon. We were all agitated about the wait but we were quickly snapped out of those selfish things we let bug us when the nurse came out for the first update.

She told us that my aunt came in with her heart working at 25% and I could see a tinge of worry in the nurses eye even though she was reassuring. A double bypass was now going to be a quadruple bypass. She did make it clear that she COULD NOT not give us any idea what the chances of her living through it were.

We really never thought that there was any significant chance of her not coming home. The next eight hours were tense and further updates informed us that after taking vein from both legs and the chest wall, they had decided to only do a double bypass and that they had found significant damage to her mitral valve, so a ring would be put in.

The worry was at a peak because with a heart at 25%, the repaired valve would make the heart need to work harder. We were never told a survival rate but we were told that the heart would probably be weaker and that the most difficult and telling thing would be how her heart reacted when it took over for the machine that keeps blood pumping during surgery.

A very wonderful surgeon at the end of the day gave us the final news that his expectations had been greatly exceeded and her heart had taken over stronger than before than it had been before, which he said was a great success due to the addition of the ring.

That surgery was June 16, 2011, she came home having never felt ANY PAIN on June 24th and was walking on her own just fine. As of today we try to avoid the heat but we take a nightly walk a long way around our neighborhood and many wonderful people come outside to wish her well.

Before she was showing some signs of dementia such as asking the same question repeatedly within a 10 minute period. She has rarely done that since she came home due to the increased bloodflow to her brain.

Even though she is doing very well, the process is difficult due to her husband’s dementia at age 93. I love my uncle very much and having to dodge the occasional swat of a cane is nothing, but when he starts wanting her to wait on him “hand-and-foot” I have to yell and restrain him. I hate that but we make up every day and I remind him I love him.

I am 33 with prolapse mild enough to only need to visit the cardio every 5 years but I could very well need repair someday. My mom has an enlarged heart and both of us have always been scared of heart issues, but we feel much better because of the amazing things these wonderful surgeons do, with almost no pain whatsoever. She never even took a pain pill.

Thanks to my God and always keep your life as positive as possible and eliminate can’t from the vocabulary unless it is to say I can’t eat that fried unhealthy meal today.”


millie says on July 21st, 2011 at 11:57 am

My mom had her aortic valve replaced in August of 2010. She is now in congestive heart failure because of what they have told us was that she somewhere along the line caught a virus. Her seams in the aortic are leaking. The doctors at Jefferson University in Phili. told us she will need to be reopened to repair the vale. My mom is 75 years old and is a two time survivor of cancer. I am very scared. We just buried my dad in November. Can anyone tell me the survival rate for this? has anyone ever heard of this happening?

Thank You

Kenny King says on November 25th, 2011 at 3:39 pm

hey adam I had open heart surgery in 1985 first baby in scotland to have the switch TGA/VSD and have just been told that at the age of 26 will need to get a new valve doctor recommends the metal valve not pig valve but I have to admit until I read youre blog I was a bit scared about the operation but you and the others on this blog have made me feel at ease thank god for modern medicine lol thanks and all the best bud.

Joe says on February 26th, 2012 at 11:06 pm

Hi, my names joe and I’m 14 years old. I’m going in for open heart surgery soon because I have hypertrophic obstructive cardiomyopathy. I was scared because I thought the death rate would be very high but you have helped me realize that its not! Thank you!

Michael says on May 15th, 2012 at 2:35 pm

I`m in my 40`s and had a major heart attack 10 days ago. My heart is too weak to opertae right now, so they put me on heart meds for 6 weeks to make sure that heart muscle that was damaged isn`t “dead but “hibernating”. The doc tol me if I cannot have the surgery I have a 35-50% survival rate within 5 years. Have you hear of these stasistics. I`m scared to death

Bo says on August 7th, 2012 at 4:57 am

I have had two open heart surgeries in my life. The first one I had I was given almost a 50/50 chance of survival because of the weird combination of defects I had with me. I had 8 vsd’s, transposition of the greater arteries. Both of my arteries were on one side of my heart and they were on the front of my heart as well. It turned out that my vsd’s ended up saving my life by getting Oxygen through to my body. My second surgery was low risk compared to the first with a 99% survival expectancy. I had a ventricular outflow tract repair two months ago.

matilda says on September 27th, 2012 at 2:39 pm

i had a triple bypass feb. 2010 and i feel so much better i was very sick. the only problem i occurred was i was retaining fluid in one lung and it was hard for me to breath after my surgery, but my drs. after a week or so they get it taken care of. i feel so much better now; for i was very sick.

Jack says on November 20th, 2012 at 10:40 pm

Wow! Thank you! My brother is undergoing such surgery tomorrow and I appreciate the positive news you’ve posted. J.

ellin markey says on January 19th, 2013 at 12:04 pm

Just 10 wks out of valve replacement surgery. Went back to work after 6 wks totaly exhausted. Employers gave me a poor performance report????? Looking for other work.

Anonymous says on February 7th, 2013 at 8:45 am

Hey Adam, wow thats great! congratulations! Thank you for sharing your story. I am 15 and going in for my pulmonary valve replacement next month. I am nervous, but I feel like I need to put on a face for everyone and tell everyone that I am not. Inside though, I am freaking out! I flipped on my best friend the other day and started balling my eyes out in his arms. He held me and told me everything would be fine, but he has never been through open-heart surgeries and does not know what it is like. My other surgeries when I was younger had many complications and because of my congenital defect, I have lived my life in and out of hospitals. I am excited for the upcoming surgery and have high hopes that it will be successful and I will have more energy after, but what if I am wrong? How long were you in the hospital for?

Laurie says on February 19th, 2013 at 9:11 pm

My 84 year old father was scheduled for a robotic procedure to fix his mitral valve prolapse with regurgitation on Sept 22, 2012. When my dad was on the operating table the surgeon said he couldn’t use the robot and would have to do open heart surgery instead. Due to the surgeon’s recommendation, my mom and brother agreed to the open heart surgery. After the surgery my dad was in the ICU for 2 weeks and then left the hospital and was sent to a long term care facility with a tracheostomy and a feeding tube. His heart function continued to deteriorate and he died on Jan. 19, 2013. I don’t think my dad was strong enough for open heart surgery and never should have had the surgery and I blame the surgeon for not recognizing that fact. Make sure you are healthy enough for the surgery and get a second doctor’s opinion before changing to an open heart procedure. Don’t let the surgeon pressure you into getting it done immediately. If we would have waited maybe my dad could have had a less invasive procedure and would still be with us today.

david says on May 17th, 2013 at 3:08 pm

had by pass surgery and I thank god I did it.
its scary but I will live

theoutsidersguy says on June 10th, 2013 at 12:27 am

my dad replaced the valve by open heart surgery but he again was admitted in emergency due to infection told by doctors. he had PT INR level high ( 8.4 ) he again got operation, doctor took out the level of thin blood that was covered outdside the heart. so i want to know what is the fact about that. my dad is now well but afraid due to double operation done with in 1 weeks. is there any complexities ? please help me with your valuable information

Destiny says on July 12th, 2013 at 10:00 am

Hey Adam. It is so great to hear that the survival rates are so high. My boyfriends dad is going to get his open heart surgery in August and I was so terrified for him to lose his dad if things went wrong. I lost my mom at 14 and know what a struggle it is and how bad it hurts. I’m so happy that I can tell him how high the rates are. It made me feel a lot better and I know he’ll feel way better too. Prayers from everyone please, and I’m also glad too hear about everyone else’s surgery going so well and for the ones that lost people to open heart surgery I’m very sorry for your loss. God bless all of you and you adam. Thanks.

Ronald says on November 9th, 2013 at 11:53 am

The risk may be low, but it is still there. My mother in law, who was in her early 60’s, not overweight and otherwise very health, underwent testing and it was recommended to her that she have bypass surgery. She was given assurances that this was the best choice to make and the surgery has a 99% survivability rate. Based on the medical advice, she agreed to schedule the surgery, which took place this week. As they wheeled her off to surgery she was smiling, joking and generally feeling good. The next day they were telling us we needed to remove life support because she was brain dead.

I’m very happy to hear the success stories posted here and am not making the blanket statement that no one should ever have hearty surgery, but I do want everyone to be aware that people can and do die while undergoing heart surgery and if you make the decision to have it, please don’t make that decision lightly. Have your affairs in order and make sure your family is prepared in case the worst happens, because there is the very real possibility that it will. We all like to think that it will happen to “someone else”, but that’s being naive. Yes, medical advances have come a long way and great things can be done, but I caution against being overconfident and assuming medical science is infallible.

Shelby Koll Stahl says on October 7th, 2014 at 3:06 am

My dad was 84 when he passed. He had a floppy mitral valve that he found out when he was 57. He decided not to have any surgery, I wish he had done because he died at age 84 and maybe he could have lived longer if he had the surgery when he was younger. but I wanted him to have it when he was having issues at age 83. After reading your story I guess I am glad he opted not to have surgery at age 83 but he did have a few bouts in the hospital over a 2 yr period and ended up very weak and loss of being able to hold urine and bowels I think he gave up because my mom died 5 years earlier and he just wanted to go be with her. he was lonely I think. I miss them SO much. I am 51 and have an enlarged heart I have been told but it may be from my chemo I had to do when I was 42. I’m fine so far………… Dr. said it is probably just my normal.

steph says on November 9th, 2014 at 10:13 pm

I am having this surgery soon and I’m scared.

Ike Nelson says on February 8th, 2015 at 2:09 pm

I had Brain surgery 3 years ago and that is burned in my mind like my childhood. Yea! it’s scary, scary as hell!, but the one thing I took away from that experience was that staying positive is your best medicine at this time. In terms of surviving it, bringing good positive energy with toward you is so important. Kids have drown in a bucket of water, but it’s like my dad used to say, “when your numbers up it’s up! no mater what, where, how or why. The odds are certainly in your favor for success but yea , there’s always that feeling of uncertainty that we struggle with, so remain positive, think good thoughts, allow everyone to support you this all goes a long way to your speedy recovery. May the Universe bless you.

Mel says on March 30th, 2015 at 10:27 pm

Hi. I’m on here looking up different possible outcomes from open heart surgery. My brother in law, just 34 yrs old, just found out he was only born with 2 valves in his heart instead of 3. First the hospital said enlarged heart, then congestive heart failure, finally sending him to another – more advanced – hospital today where the missing valve was discovered. He goes in for open heart surgery tomorrow. I’m scared for him, I’m scared for his family. My family. He has a 6 yr old girl and 3 yr old boy who would be devastated if he didn’t make it. Any opinions?

Michele Helton says on July 22nd, 2015 at 12:54 pm

My father, William Besser Munson 3, was the 1st patient to survive open heart surgery. His case is documented in old medical journals. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to track down the records. He was a young child at the time. 1940s.

Scott Caldwell says on March 28th, 2016 at 2:36 pm

She obviously didn’t have her chest sawed open for the surgery or there would have been plenty off pain! Glad she didn’t!

mayur bhalani says on February 22nd, 2017 at 3:31 am

How many percentage people live one year after bypass operation?

Answer send me by email

avmphil says on May 13th, 2017 at 11:00 pm

I had a an open heart -surgery in 2012 and i believe i have recovered somewhat based on my daily routine . And I do indulge in the many likes especially when food is concern. However, I keep it on the moderate level and not overstepping.It’s my 5th now and will be 70 in the coming months. And take a string of medication as prescribed by my Doctor.

Dale Harder says on June 12th, 2017 at 1:39 am

I had an inter-atrial septal defect with a diameter the size of a half-dollar surgically repaired when I was 21 by the great surgeons Dr. Frank Gerbode and Dr. Norman Shumway at the Stanford Medical Center; I used the heart lung machine and my chest was opened up in front. I am now 80 and have lived a fairly athletic life. When I was 61 I had a bout of tachycardia with a pulse of about 210. Dr. Charlie Young treated that with a radio wave ablation which seemed to solve the problem and I was able to toss the coumadin, I had been taken, into the trash upon his orders. Since I’ve survived fairly well for 59 years-I would say I am in reasonably good health. I would like people to realize that good outcomes are possible. In my case not smoking, almost no alcoholic consumption, minimal sugar consumption, moderate exercise for an average of about an hour a day, eating at least 4 or 5 fruits or vegetables daily, social interaction, reading and other activities to challenge my brain, sleeping about 9 hours a night, avoiding most stressful situations must have helped. So there is hope.
may be one of the longest survivors of such surgery. In fact, if anyone knows of anyone who’s made it longer let me know–just out of curiosity.

David says on July 1st, 2017 at 2:41 am

Hello Adam. My name is David. And in 1964 when I was just 5 years old I had open heart surgery in Ann Arbor, Michigan to repair a hole in my valve that was 53 years ago, I am now 57 and very healthy. I don’t know how many people who’ve lived that long since having open heart surgery, but I’m one of them, and that was having mine done in 1964 so I hope that will give those who have just or recently had open heart surgery hope that you can live a long and healthy life. My last stomach flu was in 1995.

Julie Anderson says on August 5th, 2017 at 5:50 pm

This helps, thank you :).

TheLazyLeftist says on September 24th, 2017 at 2:54 pm

did u survive?

Philip Kraig Rand says on March 19th, 2018 at 12:59 am

I have had three procedures in my life. I am 28 I had a balloon diolation on my heart when I was 36 hours old had the Ross prossedure when I was was 12 and two mechanical vales implanted into my heart when I was 19. It now my pulmotic mechanic valve keeps closing even though I’m on warfrin. And I’ve talked to surgeon and I only have 20 precent survival rate of third open heart cause every time you have open heart surgery your heart fuses more and more with you’re sternum. But apparently my case is so rare it was brought up at the cardiologist conversation that I hope through my trials they will find better outcomes for those who follow in my path. I don’t mind being the guinea pig if it means saving a life in the future……

Hougaard Dan-Anne says on March 23rd, 2018 at 12:58 pm

I am having open heart on April 3 for arota valve replacement. I am scared I am going to die. April 2nd a caterization. I had arota corralation correction, at age 10. I am so scared. The doctors nurse told me I am “I am no more special than anyone else, I only had a 50/50 chance of surivival. Plus people can still die within 30 days after surgery. ”

I like a yes or no answer. If this is true. I am so afraid that my life is slipping through my fingers.

Thank you

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