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Am J Cardiol. 1975 Jun;35(6):872-85.

Diagnosis and management of complications of prosthetic heart valves.


Complications after heart valve replacement remain a substantial source of morbidity and mortality despite continuing advances in surgical care and prosthetic design. Infectious endocarditis occurs in about 4 percent of patients and may appear early (within 60 days) or late after operation. Endocarditis of early onset is commonly due to staphylococcal, fungal or gram-negative organisms and is fatal in 70 percent or more of cases. Infection of late onset is more often of streptococcal origin and the mortality rate is lower, about 35 percent. With either type, prompt recognition, vigorous and appropriate antimicrobial therapy and early consideration of surgical intervention are crucial. The postperfusion and postpericardiotomy syndromes are relatively common and relatively benign syndromes associated with postoperative fever. Their recognition is important to prevent confusion with endocarditis or sepsis and thus to reassure the patient and physician. Treatment is primarily symptomatic. Intravascular hemolysis occurs with most prosthetic heart valves but is more common with certain prostheses and with paraprosthetic valve regurgitation, with significant hemolytic anemia in 5 to 15 percent. Oral iron replacement therapy is effective in the majority of patients, but occasionally blood transfusion or reoperation for leak around the prosthesis is necessary. Prosthesis dysfunction due to thrombus may be recognized clinically by recurrence of heart failure, syncope, cardiomegaly and altered prosthetic valve sounds or new murmurs. Hemodynamic studies verify the diagnosis, and prompt reoperation is indicated for this potentially lethal problem. Systemic embolization has decreased markedly with the introduction of cloth-covered prostheses and is frequently related to erratic or ineffective anticoagulant therapy. We continue to recommend anticoagulant therapy for all patients with prosthetic heart valves unless there is a major contraindication.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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