Actor Bill Paxton died from a stroke following heart surgery, according to his death certificate obtained by TMZ and released March 6.
The actor had heart valve replacement surgery to repair an aortic aneurysm on Feb. 14, which resulted in surgical complications and a fatal stroke, the death certificate states. Paxton died less than two weeks after his surgery on Feb. 25 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California.
An aortic aneurysm is a bulge in the aorta, which is the largest artery in the body. These aneurysms can either split the layers of the artery wall, causing blood to leak (a “dissection”), or they can burst completely, causing internal bleeding (a “rupture”), according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Treatments for aortic aneurysms include medicines and surgery to repair or replace the damaged part of the artery.
The aortic valve is the most common valve to be replaced in heart valve surgery, according to the National Institutes of Health. As with any surgery, there are risks involved with cardiac surgery; one of those risks is stroke.
Strokes are the fourth leading cause of death in the U.S., according to the CDC.
Paxton’s death certificate revealed that he had a bicuspid aortic valve (BAV), a heart defect present at birth that can prevent blood from flowing properly. While Paxton’s death certificate does not specifically state that his birth defect was related to his surgery, it lists BAV as an underlying cause of his death.
BAV is the most common congenital heart defect, according to the . It runs in families and is more common in males than in females. BAV is often not diagnosed until later in life because it causes no symptoms, but it can worsen over time and eventually require treatment.
Paxton, who acted in movies such as “Apollo 13,” “Titanic,” and “Twister,” was 61 years old.
Lara is a digital editor for HealthCentral. She is the site’s staff writer, Sexual Health editor, and email newsletter chief. Previously, she worked as the patient education editor at the American College of OB-GYNs, where she became obsessed with learning about women’s health, and as a news writer/editor at WTOP.com. Connect with her on Twitter @laradesanto.