Minimally invasive heart surgery

Minimally invasive heart surgery involves a surgeon making one or more small incisions in the chest using specially designed instruments. It doesn't require cutting open the chest and dividing the breastbone, as done in traditional heart surgery. Because it’s less invasive, this surgery offers many benefits, including:

  • Faster recovery
  • Less postoperative pain
  • Less trauma to the body
  • Shorter hospital stays

Minimally invasive surgery also is called laparoscopic surgery or keyhole surgery. Robotic heart surgery is a type of minimally invasive heart surgery.

Your surgeon considers your age, current health factors, and the type and extent of your heart problems when deciding whether to do traditional heart surgery or minimally invasive heart surgery. Together, you discuss and compare the benefits and the risks of each type of heart surgery. Your surgeon will do traditional heart surgery if he or she feels that the minimally invasive procedure can't be completed safely and with the best outcome for you.

Benefits of minimally invasive heart surgery can include:

  • Improved postoperative lung function
  • Faster recovery and return to activity
  • Little scarring
  • Lower risk of infection
  • Minimal blood loss
  • No splitting of the breastbone
  • Reduced hospital stay
  • Significantly less pain
  • Smaller incisions

What to expect during minimally invasive heart and vascular surgery

Preparing for your procedure

Prior to your heart valve surgery, you’ll meet with your physician to discuss your medical history, medications you take and any questions you have. Tests you may have before minimally invasive heart surgery include:

Heart Tests & Diagnostics

If you use tobacco, you’ll need to quit at least two weeks before surgery. Tobacco use can interfere with the blood’s ability to clot properly. Your physician can prescribe a nicotine-replacement product to help you stop tobacco use.

Practice deep breathing and coughing exercises at least once a day in the weeks leading up to your surgery. After surgery, you’ll need to take deep breaths and cough frequently. This helps to prevent pneumonia. Practicing before surgery makes the breathing and coughing easier to do after surgery.

As in the case of most surgeries, your physician will ask you not to eat or drink a certain number of hours beforehand—often nothing after midnight the night before.

During your procedure

The staff explains what's going to happen during your surgery. They’ll check your identification bracelet and ask you about allergies. Prior to beginning surgery, a member of your surgical team will clean and shave the area where your incision will be made to reduce the risk of infection.

Then, you’ll lie on the operating room table. A surgical team member places a strap over your knees to keep you safely on the table. Someone on the surgical team may cover you with an extra blanket if you’re cold, and your arms may be tucked in at your sides or put on an arm board. An anesthesiologist will give you anesthetic medication to put you to “sleep” during surgery.

During surgery, your surgical team will closely monitor your vital signs. Leads that monitor your heart will be placed on your chest and connected to a monitor that tracks your heart rate. As the monitor counts your heart rate, it makes a beeping noise, and your heartbeat may be seen on a screen. Your nurse will place a small clip (pulse oximeter) on your finger to measure your pulse and the amount of oxygen in your blood.

The time it takes for your surgery is only an estimate; depending on your condition, your surgery may be longer or shorter than expected. If your surgery takes longer than you were told, it doesn’t mean anything is wrong.

After your procedure

The surgeon or an assistant will update your family or other waiting loved ones about your condition as soon as the procedure is over. Immediately after your surgery, you’ll be taken to your room, where you remain throughout your stay. It can take a couple of hours to get you settled in your room. During this time, your family is asked to stand by in the waiting area. When your family comes to visit for the first time, they’ll see equipment and members of your care team around your bed.

You may be able to leave the hospital two to three days after surgery, and you may be able to return to normal activities within two to three weeks.

What is robotic heart surgery?

Robotic surgery is an advanced method of surgery using leading-edge technology to perform minimally invasive procedures. These procedures are associated with potential benefits including:

  • Less trauma to the body
  • Less postoperative pain
  • Shorter hospital stays
  • Faster recovery

The robot is a sophisticated medical device that allows surgeons to operate through tiny incisions. The surgeon is stationed at a console and guides the robot’s every movement. The robot translates the surgeon’s hand motions to perform even the most complex and delicate procedures. Specialized micro-instruments used by the robot allow for greater range of motion than the human hand, resulting in unprecedented precision and control. The surgeon sees high-resolution, three-dimensional images of the robot’s every move on a state-of-the-art camera.

What to expect during robotic heart surgery

Preparing for your procedure

Prior to your robotic heart surgery, you’ll meet with your doctor to discuss your medical history, the medicines you take and any questions you have about the procedure.

Heart Tests & Diagnostics

During your procedure

At a nearby computer workstation, your heart surgeon watches through a viewport to see inside your chest and uses a pair of joysticks to manipulate two precisely engineered robotic arms. The arms hold specially designed surgical instruments that mimic the actual movement of the surgeon's hands on the joysticks.

Thanks to robotic technology, only three holes—each about the diameter of a pencil—are needed to complete the surgery. The system can;t be programmed, nor can it make decisions on its own. The Da Vinci® System requires that every surgical maneuver be directed by your surgeon from the console, while the cardiac surgical team remains at your bedside'

After your procedure

After surgery, your surgeon updates your family other loved ones on your condition. Generally, you’re awake shortly after surgery and can expect to sit up in bed the night of surgery and be able to sip fluids.

You can move out of bed to a chair or take short walks the next day. Pain medication is available. You may receive physical rehabilitation while in the hospital and are usually ready to go home a few days after surgery.

Why choose Ohio State for robotic and minimally invasive heart surgery?

The Center for Minimally Invasive Surgery (CMIS) at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center was created in 1995 as part of the university’s mission to provide patients with the highest level of care. Utilizing state-of-the-art equipment and technologies, our surgeons, nurses and support staff are committed to providing you with all the benefits of minimally invasive surgery.

At Ohio State, we offer the following minimally invasive heart surgeries:

Ten years after performing the nation’s first robotic heart surgery, the Ohio State Ross Heart Hospital continues to pioneer robotic surgery as one of a small number of active training centers in the United States using one of the Da Vinci® Systems worldwide. By establishing these robotic procedures as the standard of care, the Ross Heart Hospital builds on its tradition of innovative cardiac surgical techniques, training surgeons who specifically come to Ohio State’s Center for Advanced Robotic Surgery to become experts in the robotic field.

Ohio State’s Heart and Vascular Center cardiothoracic surgery experts have led the development of many procedures widely used today, and they’re focused on continued innovation and development of new therapies and techniques.

We perform the following robotic heart procedures:

The Da Vinci® Robot System uses a tiny camera with multiple lenses inserted into your chest, providing a three-dimensional image of the heart.

Traditionally, open-heart surgery involves a full incision of the breastbone that averages 9 to 10 inches in length. With robot intervention, the use of tools to hold the chest cavity open during the latter part of surgery is minimized, resulting in less postsurgical chest discomfort for you and fewer rib fractures. Also, the camera and robotic arms provide your surgeon with much better visualization and dexterity.

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