ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – A local cardiac surgeon speaks out about the complication after heart surgery that contributed to actor Bill Paxton’s death.

Paxton was reportedly undergoing open heart surgery to repair a heart valve damaged when he had rheumatic fever as a child. SLU Care cardiac surgeon Dr. Richard Lee at SSM Health SLU Hospital weighs on his condition.

“Rheumatic fever attacks the heart valves and overtime makes them not work so well,” Lee says. “He likely had a problem…a tightness of his heart valve, because of that infection.”

Lee says stroke during cardiac surgery happens about two percent of the time. Since they know that, he says doctors can usually screen for such complications and prevent them – but it does happen on rare occasions.

Paxton died at age 61.

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