From September 1967 to January 1990, a total of 2100 patients underwent 2366 aortic valve replacements with a variety of allograft, xenograft, and mechanical valves. Concomitant procedures were performed in 764 patients. Actuarial survival at 12 years was 59.6 % (70% confidence limits 57.8% to 61.4%). Hazard function for death was highest immediately after operation, falling to merge with a slowly rising phase of risk at approximately 3 months. Actuarial freedom from sudden death at 12 years was 88.0% (70% confidence limits 86.7% to 89.3%). The shape of the hazard function for sudden death was similar to that for death. Actuarial freedom from death with cardiac failure at 12 years was 87.9% (70% confidence limits 86.5% to 89.2%). The shape of the hazard function for death with cardiac failure was also similar to that for death. Risk factor analysis revealed the important deleterious impact on long-term survival resulting from impaired left ventricular structure and function because of aortic valve disease. No current-era valve used in this study (allograft, xenograft, or mechanical) was a risk factor for death. Both aortic wall disease and endocarditis necessitating aortic valve replacement substantially decreased long-term patient survival. Aortic valve replacement is advisable much earlier in the natural history of aortic valve disease before secondary left ventricular damage occurs.