Impact of postoperative complications after cardiac surgery on long-term survival

Siddharth Pahwa, Annalisa Bernabei, Hartzell Schaff, John Stulak, Kevin Greason, Alberto Pochettino, Richard Daly, Joseph Dearani, Gabor Bagameri, Katherine King, Jason Viehman, Juan Crestanello

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Purpose: The impact of postoperative complications on long-term survival is not well characterized. We sought to study the prevalence of postoperative complications after cardiac surgery and their impact on long-term survival. Methods: Operative survivors (n = 26,221) who underwent coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) (n = 13,054, 49.8%), valve surgery (n = 8667, 33.1%) or combined CABG and valve surgery (n = 4500, 17.2%) from 1993 to 2019 were included in the study. Records were reviewed for postoperative complications and long-term survival. Propensity-match analysis was performed between patients who did and did not have a postoperative complication. The associations between postoperative complications and survival were assessed using a Cox-proportional model. Results: Complications occurred in 17,463 (66.6%) of 26,221 operative survivors. A total of 17 postoperative complications were analyzed. Postoperative blood product use was the commonest (n = 12,397, 47.3%), followed by atrial fibrillation (n = 8399, 32.0%), prolonged ventilation (n = 2336, 8.9%), renal failure (n = 870, 3.3%), reoperation for bleeding (n = 859, 3.3%) and pacemaker/ICD insertion (n = 795, 3.0%). Stroke (hazard ratio [HR]: 1.55; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.36–1.77), renal failure (HR: 1.45; 95% CI: 1.33–1.58) and pneumonia (HR: 1.23; 95% CI: 1.11–1.36) had the strongest impact on long-term survival. Long-term survival decreased as the number of postoperative complications increased. Conclusions: Postoperative complications after cardiac surgery significantly impact outcomes that extend beyond the postoperative period. Stroke, renal failure, and pneumonia are particularly associated with poor long-term survival.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2045-2052
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of cardiac surgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2021


  • long-term survival
  • postoperative complications

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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