Complications include but not limited to:
- Infection: Lung infection, urinary tract infection and wound infection are the commonest sites for infection after heart surgery. Regular physiotherapy helps prevent infection in the lungs.
All patients receive antibiotics at the start of surgery and the operation theatre protocols include strict infection control practices and hence surgical site infection is uncommon. However, those with lowered immunity like diabetics, smokers and those on long term steroids are prone to infections.
- Stroke: may occur at any time after surgery within the first few days. 1-2 % is the risk of getting a stroke. It is usual for patients to make a complete recovery. Weakness on one side of the body or difficulty in speaking are the common symptoms. Those with a previous history of stroke or those with carotid artery disease are at higher risk (10 %)
- Bleeding: can occur in the first few hours after surgery and may be due to use of anti-coagulants during surgery. The risk is about 5 %. Sometimes there may be bleeding from a small blood vessel and in such cases the chest is reopened and the bleeding stopped.
- Renal failure: in some patients, there may be improper renal functioning after heart surgery, requiring dialysis. But this is usually temporary.
- Lung injury: can occur in chronic smokers and those with lung diseases. This may necessitate long term use of ventilator support
- Atrial fibrillation and abnormal heart rhythm: is seen in 25-30 % of patients after surgery. Palpitations, sweating, nausea and dizziness are common symptoms. Some people have bradycardia, which slowing of the heart rate and may need a temporary pace maker.
- Death: may occur in 1-2 % of cases. Those who have had surgeries before have a higher risk.