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

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

Minimally invasive surgery also is referred to laparoscopic surgery. Sometimes, minimally invasive surgery is informally referred to as 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 cannot be completed safely and with the best outcome for you.

What minimally invasive heart and vascular surgery treats

In traditional open-heart surgery, a large incision is made in the chest, and the sternum must be broken. Minimally invasive heart surgery uses a much smaller incision between the ribs to access the heart.

Benefits of minimally invasive heart surgery may include:

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

Why choose Ohio State for minimally invasive heart and vascular 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:

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:

  • Medical history and physical exam
  • Chest X-ray – A radiograph or picture of the heart and lungs including blood vessels, ribs and bones of the spine
  • Pulmonary function test – Tests to measure the lungs’ ability to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide appropriately
  • Blood tests – Studies to detect enzymes that leak into the blood when the heart has been damaged and to detect infection and antibodies
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG/ECG) – A test that records the electrical activity of the heart
  • CT angiogram (CTA – computed tomography angiogram) – An imaging procedure that uses CT technology to produce cross-sectional, detailed images of blood vessels
  • Dental exam

If you use tobacco, you will be instructed 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.

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

The area where your incision will be made is shaved and cleaned prior to surgery to reduce risk of infection. You will be given anesthetic medication to put you “to sleep” during surgery.

Practice deep breathing and coughing exercises at least once a day. After surgery, you will 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.

During your procedure

The staff explains what is going to happen during your surgery. They’ll check your identification bracelet ask you about allergies. Then you are made comfortable on the operating room table. A safety strap is put over your knees so you stay on the table. You are covered with an extra blanket if you are cold and your arms may be tucked in at your sides or put on an arm board. You will be under general anesthesia during the surgery.

During surgery your vital signs are closely checked. Leads used to monitor your heart are put on your chest, and are connected to a monitor that counts your heart rate. As the monitor counts your heart rate it makes a beeping noise, and your heartbeat may be seen on a screen. A small clip (pulse oximeter) is placed on your finger to measure your pulse and the amount of oxygen in your blood.

The time it takes for your surgery is estimated; depending on your condition, your surgery may be longer or shorter than expected. If your surgery takes longer than you were told, it does not mean that anything is wrong. After your surgery is over, the surgeon or an assistant talks to your waiting family.

Recovery after minimally invasive surgery 

The surgeon will update your family about your condition as soon as the procedure is over. Immediately after your surgery, you are 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 will see equipment and people 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.

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