Surgeon Q&A: What Percent of Patients Get Pacemakers After Heart Valve Surgery?

I recently received a great question from Lori about pacemakers and heart valve surgery. Lori posted at our Facebook page, “Adam, what percentage of patients need pacemakers after valve surgery?”

It’s a great question. And, I wanted to get Lori a great answer. So, at the Heart Valve Summit, I tracked down Dr. Patrick McCarthy, who is Chief of Cardiac Surgery at Northwestern Medicine and the Executive Director at the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute. If you didn’t know, Dr. McCarthy is heart valve guru who has treated over 100 patients in our community including John DiFazio, Ed Miscovic and Janet Ruddock. 🙂

Here’s Dr. McCarthy’s response to Lori’s question.



Many thanks Lori for her question. I would also like to extend a mighty thanks to Dr. Patrick McCarthy and the entire Northwestern team for their support of our patients, their families and friends.

Keep on tickin!

P.S. For the hearing impaired members of our community, please find below a written transcript of my interview with Dr. McCarthy.

Adam: Hi, everybody. It’s Adam with Today, we are at the Heart Valve Summit in Chicago, Illinois, and we’re here with a Chicago native. This is Dr. Patrick McCarthy.

Dr. McCarthy: Thanks, Adam.

Adam: Thank you for being here and for all your great support of our community. Dr. McCarthy is the Chief of Cardiac Surgery at Northwestern Medicine. He’s also the Executive Director of the Bluhm Cardiovascular Institute. Dr. McCarthy, the question for you comes in from Lori. She says, “Adam, what percentage of patients need pacemakers after valve surgery?”

Dr. McCarthy: Pacemakers are not common but they’re not unusual. A rough number would be about 3%, maybe 5%, and then it depends on which valve and which operation. For instance, if the patient is undergoing a reoperation that may be a more extensive surgery, so the risk for a pacemaker might be higher, Lori. Your own heart’s pacemaker lives right next to the valves. Your normal heart rate might be 72 and is from your own heart’s pacemaker. If this is your aortic valve and your mitral valve, they live right next to each other and the pacemaker runs between the two.

When we’re working around there, when we put sutures around there, when we put valves in there, and rings, we may slow the heartbeat down. What we do is we watch it for a few days. People may have a slow heartbeat for two or three days, and then it gradually comes up and they don’t need a pacemaker. Sometimes people will have a slow heartbeat, and about 3% with aortic valves, maybe about 2% with mitral valve may end up needing a pacemaker, but it can go higher if they’re older patients and more complex operations.

Adam: Lori, I hope that helped you. I know it helped me. Dr. McCarthy, thanks again for all of your great care for the patients in our community.

Dr. McCarthy: Thank you.

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

To learn how Adam has helped millions of people with heart valve disease, watch Adam's video, subscribe to his free newsletter, or visit his Facebook, or Twitter pages.

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