Treatment of native valvular heart disease has resulted in an increasing number of patients with prosthetic valves. Although an improvement over the diseased native valve removed at surgery, prosthetic valves have suboptimal hemodynamics; mechanical valves require anticoagulation and tissue valves wear out over time. Serious complications of prosthetic valves occur at a rate of about 2% to 3% per patient-year. Complications include thromboembolism, prosthesis-patient mismatch, structural valve dysfunction, endocarditis, and hemolysis. Prosthetic valve endocarditis is a lethal disease with mortality rates of 50% to 80% even with appropriate therapy. Echocardiography now provides detailed information on valve function and hemodynamics, allowing early detection of complications. Many of these complications can be prevented by choosing the optimal valve at the time of surgery, rigorous control of anticoagulation and adherence to established anticoagulation guidelines, dental hygiene and endocarditis prophylaxis, and periodic echocardiographic monitoring by a cardiologist.