Vertigo, Headaches & Vision Problems After Heart Valve Surgery… Can You Help Mandy?

By Adam Pick on June 22, 2009

I just received a very interesting email from Mandy about heart valve surgery, vertigo, headaches and vision complications after heart surgery. As you can read below, Mandy is asking for all of our help.


Mandy With Her Two Children


Mandy writes to me, “Hi Adam, I had valve replacement on September 16, 2009. I am 34 years old. I am doing really well but I am having some vision disturbances and periods of vertigo. At first it was just vision disturbances and I wrote it off as ocular headaches. Then, I started having difficulty walking straight with these vision disturbances. I looked on-line and found transient ischemic attacks (TIAs) as a possible cause. I do not take Coumadin anymore because I have a bovine valve. My question is… Did you or any of your readers have similar experiences and if so what has been done? Thanks! Mandy”

While I do seem to have more headaches after my aortic valve replacement, I did not experience vertigo or vision loss during my recovery. However, I have met several patients that experience similar issues during their recovery.

In fact, I just received an email from Geoff Beale who writes, “I had a mitral valve repair done May 6th, 2008. Starting that week I had blurred vision from time-to-time that would trigger a headache.”


Geoff Beale – Having Vision Problems After Surgery


To further understand these post-operative complications, I just did some quick Internet research. Unfortunately, I did not find any clinical reports which connect heart valve surgery to vertigo or vision problems. That said, I will send off an email to one of my contacts at The Cleveland Clinic to see what he thinks.

In the meantime… Perhaps you can help Mandy and Geoff? Did you experience vertigo, headaches or vision disturbances after heart valve surgery?

To leave a comment, simply scroll below. In advance, thanks for your help. Or, scroll down to see over 200 patient comments.

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 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 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.

Mary Zeiger says on October 2nd, 2015 at 12:08 pm

I had HVR (St. Jude Valve) 5 years ago and had no complications until a month ago when I developed a headache on the left side. It has not done away and the CT Scan & MRI showed nothing. They are getting worse. Has anyone experienced headaches long after surgery. My doctor is hesitant to give me narcotic due to being on Coumadin. I hope I do not have to live like this.

debbie says on October 4th, 2015 at 5:05 pm

snap this is exactly the same as m me…right eye…like something blocking most of my lens…get dizzy spells…numbness in my fingers…surgeon not interestrd. i had a ten hour op…mech valve, root and hemi arch replacement…my breathing still does not feel right a year on. I have been referred to eye doc..stroke tean etc…nothing…nwver had these problems before.

ElcyIL says on October 13th, 2015 at 12:46 pm

Warfarin gave me twice a day aural migraines and severe vertigo (among a host of other symptoms), so you cannot rule that out.

Gary Stripling says on October 15th, 2015 at 12:49 pm

I’m a 56 yr old male. Seven weeks ago (8.21.15) I had open heart surgery to repair my mitral valve, close patent foramen ovale (PFO), and a septal resection to correct LVOT Obstruction. During the surgery the atrial lead from my pacemaker became dislodged and 3 days later I had more surgery to insert a new lead. I start cardiac rehab next week. My main issue is rather embarrassing: my butt is numb! There’s a 4″ horizontal swath across the upper part of my buttocks that is numb. I asked the surgeon about this and, after he laughed, he blamed it on my sitting in a chair too long while in ICU. Surely this will go away, right?

Mary Andrau Feldmeir says on November 3rd, 2015 at 2:28 am

I can’t believe how similar these scenarios are! So far, checked my eyes with my opthamologist and everything is fine. Will be seeing my cardiologist tomorrow to hopefully get some information. Will definitely share anything helpful with this group!

Kenny S says on November 22nd, 2015 at 9:47 pm

Guys, I had an aortic valve replacement (Bovine) and had the ascending aortic aneurysm addressed as well late Sept 2015. The end of the first week home from the hospital I was watching TV and for about 10 seconds, my vision got all jumbled up and I felt dizzy. Vision then returned to normal. Now, seven weeks out from surgery, I was driving home at night and the same thing occurred but this time it lasted about 20 seconds, cleared up then came back for about 10 more seconds. Very scary stuff. My wife took be straight to the ER where they did blood test and did a head CAT scan and all came back normal. It looks, from reading the posts here that vision issue are not unusual after heart surgery. I’m seeing my cardiologist tomorrow so hopefully he can give me more info.

puglianana says on January 25th, 2016 at 9:30 pm

I wish all these doctors would listen to the patients complaints and quit passing it off like it is our imagination. My AV replacement was 6/2/2015 and the side effects are like most posted. dizzy, eye malfunction/disturbances, headaches (which before surgery, very seldom had). Isn’t there anyone out there doing research on the replacement valves and the symptoms we all seem to be having?

Cindy Truscott says on February 10th, 2016 at 5:20 pm

I am a 58yo female who had a mitral valve repair 9/2/15. Now 5 months out, vague symptoms continue; ocular migraines leading to headaches for up to several hours, vertigo, sudden general weakness, visual “floaters”, surges of nausea, crippling muscle cramps. My surgeon, cardiologist, and primary all shrug it off. I am a nurse and have asked everyone I come across at work if anyone can shed light on this- no answers. I am off of all meds, This is so frustrating. Obviously there is a common cause. My assumption is that they are TIA’s of sorts. Any thoughts????

Kinley Wangchuk says on April 13th, 2016 at 1:12 am

My 5 year old son had a VSD closing heart surgery recently. After the surgery he kept complaining about his right eye side vision disturbances and headache. M really worried about his eye. Is it normal side effect after the surgery or its a complication that cannot be recovered. Pls help me explain with the above situation.

Eileen says on May 27th, 2016 at 2:17 pm

I had avr and 2 x bypass 05/20/15. As soon as they had ne up walking I was staggering, couldn’t walk straight, just thought it was weakness from surgery. Following week was at rehab facility and they would walk behind me saying my balance was off but never did anymore to look into it. Gradually it got better but then around 9 months out my blood pressure went high and stayed there and my vision was like I was seeing shadows of ceiling fans off to the side of both eyes and when I closed my eyes it was circles of flashing lights. Went to the ER 2 weekends in a row, the 2nd time they did cat scan but found nothing. Went to opthalmologist and he found nothing. It happens 4 or 5 times a week and sometimes 2 or 3 times a day/night, lasts 20/30 minutes. Also around the 9 month time the cardiologist took me off Plavix and upped aspirin from 81 mgs to 325 mgs. Last week saw the surgeon and he has put me back on the Plavix and back to aspirin 81 mgs. Said it may be teeny tiny blood clots. I have only been on the Plavix again for 3 days but I do think it is much improved. Surgeon said even at the 1 year mark it is not unheard of.

Marcia says on June 22nd, 2016 at 1:21 pm

Have a close friend who had his mitral valve repaired about 3 weeks ago. A couple of days ago, his vision went blurry in both eyes, and one lost vision completely for a few seconds.
Last night, he had another episode and called 911.

Navdeep singh says on July 2nd, 2016 at 3:55 am

My mom had a same problem, she had a openheart surgery for value replace in April 2016,now she had a left side headache,,Did u find any siliution ????

Navdeep singh says on July 2nd, 2016 at 3:59 am

Same things happen with my mom ,, she had a openheart surgery in April 2016 , after 20 days she lost her eye sight for a few second , and now after 2 months she had a bad left side headache,, ??

Kenneth Larkin says on December 14th, 2016 at 11:25 pm

I had the root of my aortic valve replaced June 2016(38 yrs old).Since then i’ve been having prismatic floaters in my eyes. They come and go throughout the day. Some are stronger than others. I first thought it was some kind of afterglow from anesthesia but it never went away.

Lawrence Street says on December 21st, 2016 at 11:07 am

I had aortic valve replaced and double by-pass on 1-6-14, I went into a coma for 7 days. When I woke up I had lost about 28 pounds and could not stand up. I have had miagraines since I was 10 years old and had them about 4 per year, when I woke up from the coma I started having migraine’s in the hospital. I was having about 4 a week when I left the hospital and could not stand up by myself. I have seen 2 different doctors for miagraines and still have about 8 a month. I have aura all during the month and they all don’t turn into miagraines although when you see the aura it makes you nauseous. Right now I take 2 gabapentins in the morning and 3 at night, 2 oxcarbazepines in morning and 2 at night, duloxetine in morning and night, magnesium and B- complex in morning and night. I take meds for high blood and cholesterol. I had surgery on disc’s in my neck and still have miagraines. I am at a stand still and don”t know what to do, my wife doesn’t support me because she does not believe I could have that many headaches. Does anyone have any suggestions??

Carol Navin says on January 6th, 2017 at 10:57 pm

I had the same surgery on nov 13,2015.. I too have visual disturbances (14 months post op).Its both comforting and disappointing to see how many similar side effects we have in common. I still have vertigo, and jumbled vision. My follow up physicals with regular dr, cardiologist are normal. I do have consistent pain in my chest, from my wires i think. I wish i could be sure thats whats happening.

Carol Navin says on January 6th, 2017 at 11:06 pm

It seems many of us have these vertigo and jumbled strange vision symptoms. why dont the drs seem to pick up on this.? Seems surgically related.

Carol Navin says on January 6th, 2017 at 11:11 pm

You are so right joan, hope you are better.. Heart/lung machine.. had not thought of that.. Look how many of us experience these same symptoms and how many times the drs say they dont think these things are related. or they never heard abou the symptoms

Pat says on February 19th, 2017 at 11:32 pm

I had my aorta valve replaced with a tissue valve 16 months ago. After the surgery I had migraines daily for about 30 days. I still get them about once a month. But my main problem is my vision. I have shadows and floaters constantly, as well as terrible blurring and eye strain. the noise in my ears is a continual screaming, never stops. The headaches are constant. No one ever said anything about these side affects. I thought I was going crazy but now I see that I’m not alone. Set for a catscan next week.

Mike Lints says on March 12th, 2017 at 7:59 pm

I’m convinced that metoprolol contributed to my post-surgical symptoms. I had a mitral valve repair 4 months ago, and noticed vision symptoms (squiggly aura mostly in peripheral vision) while still in the hospital immediately following my first dose of metoprolol. I also had occasional bouts of light-headedness/dizziness, but thankfully no headaches.

The dizziness ended and the vision symptoms became much less frequent and noticeable after I cut back on the dosage of metoprolol a month or so after the surgery; the vision continued to improve as the dosage was further reduced. I stopped taking metaprolol about 10 days ago. I had a brief, mild bout of the vision symptoms a few days later, so there’s probably something other than metaprolol involved, but I’m sure that whatever causes these symptoms was being aggravated by the beta blocker.

jane says on March 28th, 2017 at 6:17 am

I’ve just, this month, had mitral valve replacement and tricuspid valve repair. Had to have electric shock to try to stabilise heart rate and also a pacemaker. I am now walking around, doing light exercise to get going [I’m 70] but feel so tired. I have a sort of double vision but also vertigo, no headache and feel quite nauseous at times. The anti-sickness tabs prescribed by hospital were actually making me feel sick! so changed by my GP. I now take various meds including blood thinner, flutter tabs, diuretic, stomach protector and a beta blocker all until I have my 6 week check up, then we’ll see. This double vision is very scary but a couple of minutes sitting with eyes closed seems to help. Also there is a bit of numbness around my lips sometimes, but I just chomp my teeth against them, much as you would rub numb fingers together!
Hope you are all right by now as I realise this is very late after your post. I hope to be back to ‘ME’ very soon.

Philip Mantynen says on July 27th, 2017 at 11:31 pm

Lawrence try CoQ10 160mg bid, carnitine 330mg tid along with your B Complex and an ng tube feed overnight 2300-0700 of Vivonex TEN 30mls/hr ( no substitute). If it will help you likely will know after one overnight feed. The feeds may need to be continued nightly but each patient is different. Good luck! Migraines are mitochondrial based

markinmayeraz says on July 31st, 2017 at 11:04 am

My headache ,blurred vision , dizzyness upon standing,hangoverish feeling started after my ablation. 1 year later I recieved an aortic valve. 3 years post ablation, 2 years post avr and Im still feeling sick. Never had headaches before this. Depressing to say the least. Doctors have checked me out and dont have a clue. Eating all the good stuff and none of the bad stuff , exercise everyday and trying to stay positve. if anyone wants to talk … ps I do have moments when I feel fine 😉 59 yr old dude and I always feel better after a 12 mile mtb ride. ( for about 5 hrs)

Keven Card says on August 22nd, 2017 at 1:38 pm

I had heart valve replacement (mechanical) and an aortic aneurysm repair done last month. I’ve had several challenges with double vision, blurred vision and spots as well as headaches (although I had those before too). Is that something to be concerned about?

jcsmitty says on November 8th, 2017 at 8:15 pm

My friend just had aortic valve replacement surgery today. Her husband just reported that after coming out of recovery she reported having vision problems in her right eye. Doctors don’t see associated symptoms of a general stroke but are doing a CT scan. I decided to Google the vision problem and surgery and found this site. It sure sounds like this is a common problem yet her doctors are “investigating.”

jcsmitty says on November 8th, 2017 at 8:30 pm

I just read online that 9 out of 10,000 patients who have heart surgery experience vision problems as a result. It’s called corticol blindness and is caused by injury to blood vessels that supply the brain, not the eye itself.

jcsmitty says on November 8th, 2017 at 8:37 pm

After leaving this site, I searched the internet and found that 9 out of 10,000 heart surgeries produce vision problems. “Corticol blindness” is caused by injury to blood vessels that supply the brain, not the eye itself. It is so rare that cardiologists don’t warn against it, but maybe they should. I noted several headings on this topic and related surgery. The problem can also show up following other types of surgery (spinal, etc.) but the incidence is less (3 of 10,000).

jcsmitty says on November 8th, 2017 at 8:43 pm

My friend had that done today (11/8/17) and had vision problems in her right eye when she came out of recovery. No other symptoms of stroke and doctrs are doing a CT scan and “investigating.” Apparently 9 out of 10,000 heart surgeries produce these symptoms; the number is 3 out of 10,000 for other surgeries. It’s called “cortical blindness” and is caused by injury to blood vessels that supply the brain, not the eye. In fact, my friend’s doctors think she has a blood clot in her eye.

jcsmitty says on November 8th, 2017 at 8:47 pm

9 out of 10,000 heart surgeries show this complaint. It’s so rare that cardiologists don’t even warn patients about this possible side affect. Ask your doctor to consider “cortical blindness” and injury to the blood vessels to the brain as a result of the surgery.

Scott says on November 16th, 2017 at 3:30 pm

I had I had an aortic valve replacement January 2016. Nine days after surgery I had blurred vision and went to the ER. I had s TI A. after several weeks I had vertigo and my cardiologist referred me to a physical therapist who was certified in vestibular therapy. One session and the vertigo was gone!

Jack Havivi says on February 5th, 2018 at 3:47 am

Mitral valve replacement 2016. 4.25mg coumadin daily
prior to surgery had maybe one migraine every year or two. Since surgery it is one or two a month. Ocular migraines with aura mostly. Bouts of vertigo about once every month or two.
Cardiologist unphased…

Sandra Kemp says on March 31st, 2018 at 9:11 am

Had Mitral Valve repair March 2016. The week after surgery ai started seeing a “curve a glittery diamonds.” It starts as a circle and then gets bigger and becomes a big curve. Lasts about 20 minutes. Surgeon and cardiologist say it’s unrelated to the surgery. Really?! My family doctor said it’s a type of migraine and it is followed by mild pain in my temple.bhe said the surgery may have aggravated it and since I used to have migraines when I was a kid, he isn’t concerned. if I’d never had them before he’d be more concerned. He told me to track what I eat and if they occur with any foods. I also occasionally have double vision. Sometimes I’ll go weeks without seeing this aura. You can’t convince me it isn’t from the surgery. But the doctors just blow it off.

Douglas Perkins says on August 3rd, 2018 at 12:36 pm

I had a valve-sparing aortic root reconstruction performed three and a half years ago at the age of 43 to repair an aortic aneurysm. Prior to my surgery I was told that I could expect some mild vision issues for up to a month following surgery but that they would resolve themselves. I did have vision issues on and off for about three weeks, and they did resolve themselves, but then, about two months post surgery, they came back and have never left for more than a few weeks at a time. How to describe them? Blurred vision in my left eye, which is my non-dominant eye, so I’ve thought maybe it’s something neurological, and if I close that eye during the event it tends to lessen. Visual migraines accompanied by prismatic spinning auras and light tracers that behave almost like fireflies travelling quickly and erratically across my field of vision. Vertigo sometimes when the effect is acute. Rarely lasts for more than a couple of minutes, and if I focus on an object in the distance it will often right itself fairly quickly.

DEFINITELY a result of my surgery, since it didn’t happen prior. I’ve tried to pinpoint possible triggers, and the most likely are primarily caffeine (or coffee itself regardless of regular or decaf?) and stress. This phenomenon occurs much less frequently (though it still occurs) when I completely ditch coffee, so that’s both a comfort and a curse, but it leads me to wonder whether it’s related to vasoconstriction. I do not take any medications and have not since the surgery.

Doctors can’t explain it, though they’re trying to zero in on it. I’m actually taking part in a study designed to examine the experiences of patients who were on heart-lung bypass, as there’s a growing belief that bypass can contribute to a number of ongoing symptoms. I’ll happily report back on the results of that when they’re available.

All in all, glad to have found a forum of folks with similar experiences. Even if there is yet to be any real understanding of what exactly leads to these conditions, there is at least some comfort in company.

Nick D says on August 5th, 2018 at 2:55 pm

What is vestibular therapy

Nick D says on August 5th, 2018 at 3:22 pm

Most of th these posts are 3 or 4 yrs old. Any recent experience with vision problems after TAVR

james cadman says on August 7th, 2018 at 11:56 am

Had mitral valve surgery 3 years+ ago your symptoms are identical to mine also as I have an irregular heartbeat that sometimes jumps giving a falling sensation a bit unnerving but that’s very rare glad to see I ain’t losing the plot take meds for migraine but stress seems to trigger mine .

Silvan says on October 27th, 2018 at 9:12 am

4 1/2 years ago, when I was 23, I had a mitral valve and 7 days after that an aortic valve reconstruction (due to a complication during the first surgery). Until today—I am 28 now—I’ve been suffering from almost daily migraines and other, probably migraine-related, symptoms like nausea, vertigo, exhaustion, seeing floaters and “fireflies” that come and go without warning or explanation.

Before the surgeries I had a migraine maybe once or twice a year. My cardiologist and two neurologists don’t see a connection to the surgeries although it’s very obvious to me. The hospital where the surgery was done offer a consultation hour with a doctor who is both a cardiologist and psychologist—she finally connected the migraines and symptoms to an elevated stress level due to the surgery. She described it as a vicious cycle of stress as I was frightened by the procedure and additionally watching my health and body reactions leading to a general tension that could not and can’t be released.

I hope I can stop the symptoms with psychotherapy and relaxation techniques (as suggested by neurologists and psychologists) I have started recently, but it seems to be a long way to get there.

Maybe someone else has experience with psychotherapy regarding the so often named symptoms on this and other pages / online communities?

lasse_weber says on January 4th, 2019 at 10:17 pm

sandra_kemp more

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