Are Infections Common During or After Heart Valve Surgery?

Earlier today, I received an email with a pretty interesting question that reads, “Do you have any statistics about heart valve operations and whether or not surgery infection is common?”

As always, I love questions that I have never heard before. This question about heart valve operation and surgery infection was definitely a new one.

Heart Valve Operation, Surgery Infection

That said, I am thinking back to all of the heart valve surgery patients – both heart valve repair and heart valve replacement – that I interviewed during my research for my book. In all those discussions, there were one or two former heart valve operation patients that did experience one or another form of post-surgery infection. Specifically, Mr. Giacoma experienced a surgery infection from his median sternotomy (chest-cracking) following his open heart valve replacement surgery. You can learn more about infections relating to the broken sternum by clicking here.

Other than that, my memory is drawing a blank. That said, my gut tells me that the incidence of surgery infection following a heart valve operation is relatively small.

However, I just did some surfing through Google and did not really find anything too interesting about heart valve operations and surgery infection besides this report which suggests that alcoholics are more likely to develop infection following heart surgery. According to this study, the results show that long-term alcoholics have a four-fold increased rate of postoperative infections, an increased length of need for mechanical ventilation, as well as a need for prolonged treatment in the intensive care unit (ICU).

More specifically, long-term alcoholics showed a distinct increase in their cortisol and interleukin-10 levels following cardiopulmonary bypass surgery. There was one death in the long-term alcoholic group, and two deaths in the nonalcoholic group.

Well. I hope that helps answers the question about heart valve operation and surgery infection.

Keep on tickin!

Adam Pick
Written by Adam Pick

Adam Pick is a patient, author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery and the founder of

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