Bill Paxton: Heart Surgery, Health, And The Stroke That Killed Him

Actor Bill Paxton died early Sunday morning, reportedly from heart surgery complications. Little is known at this point about his untimely death, but what do we know about his health and/or heart problems leading up to the operation that tragically took his life?

It’s been established that Paxton suffered a lethal stroke after undergoing heart surgery. There is little else known at this time regarding details pertinent to Bill only, but according to News Medical, he had a perioperative stroke, which basically means he had a stroke while under a doctor’s (specifically a surgeon’s) care.

“A perioperative stroke is a stroke that occurs anytime between the time a patient is hospitalized for surgery until the patient is discharged from the hospital.”

Bill Paxton with daughter Lydia pictured at Entertainment Weekly’s Annual Comic-Con Celebration in 2013. [Image by Jason Merritt/Getty Images]

Perioperative strokes are always a serious medical incident, and if it doesn’t result in death as it did in Paxton’s case, it poses the threat of longstanding or permanent infirmity to the victim.

Bill Paxton’s health status was not public knowledge, so the best we can do is speculate and make guesses. For the majority of medical operations, less than one person out of 100 will suffer a peroperative stroke, though the risk creeps up if the patient has undergone certain types of surgeries. Some heart surgeries, for instance, raise the threat to up to 10 percent.

There are some lifestyle choices and medical conditions that can increase the chance one will suffer a perioperative stroke.

“Risk factors for peroperative stroke include advanced age, female gender, obesity, high blood pressure, smoking, peripheral vascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes and high cholesterol.”

Some of these, like being female and overweight we know for sure wasn’t the case for Bill Paxton’s death, but the others, such as hypertension, diabetes, and increased cholesterol levels are impossible to tell without medical records.

Perioperative strokes happen most of the time as a result of a blood clot. Blood thinners, such as aspirin, can be given to patients to prevent a clot from forming, but doing so comes with its own risk of complications, like severe hemorrhaging. Because we don’t know exactly the type of heart surgery Paxton underwent, it’s hard to pinpoint what his doctors would have thought best, though studies indicate in many cases, administering blood thinners during surgery is safer than not administering them.

According to Medscape, perioperative strokes are one of the worst things that can happen as a result of heart surgery. In addition to blood clots, reasons a patient may suffer from one of these strokes are recent heart attack and long-term atrial fibrillation, a cardiovascular condition in which the heart beats out of rhythm. Again, with the absence of information on Bill Paxton’s health, there’s no way of knowing if either of these ailments pertained to him or led to the stroke that ultimately caused his death.

Bill Paxton and wife Louise Newbury share a smooch during the premiere of HBO’s “Big Love” in February 2006. [Image by Kevin Winter/Getty Images]

From all of this information, it looks like perioperative strokes happen with heart surgeries more than any other type of surgery, and unless Paxton had recently suffered a heart attack or was dealing with atrial fibrillation, a blood clot that formed either during or as a result of his surgery is the most likely thing, based on what we know, that caused his death.

Because Bill Paxton’s health was a mystery to the public when he was alive, we may never know the specifics surrounding his death unless his family decides to share those circumstances with the public. We do know that it was not expected. We know that at 61-years-old, he was too young to die. We know he will be missed by friends, family, and all the people who loved watching him on the big (or small) screen. We know he will live on through the characters he played, and as such, Bill Paxton will never truly be forgotten.

[Featured Image by Christopher Polk/Getty Images]

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