Minimally invasive heart valve surgery operations are routinely performed in specialized centers that are elevating this specialty to a whole new level. At first, heart valve surgery was only performed on a single valve while extensive operations involving double or triple valves were deemed too technically difficult or right out impossible. This is no longer the case and several centers in the U.S. are now routinely offering this advanced option.
If you or a loved one are in need of complex heart surgery and want to investigate a less invasive surgical option, read on and learn more details about it. First of all, what does minimally invasive mean in practice? It is a surgical procedure that avoids the traditional foot-long split of the breast bone in favor of a 2' incision on the side of the chest in the space in between the ribs. All the same surgical steps and procedures can be carried out through this small window with great precision and accuracy thanks to specially designed instruments that can be reach into the heart structure well beyond the reach of the surgeon's fingers. You can find many surgical videos and pictures online to visualize this concept.
Not all surgeons have mastered these sophisticated techniques and many geographical areas in the U.S. still do not have a dedicated minimally invasive heart center. Do not be surprised if your local doctors are not aware of or even discourage you from pursuing these options. You should feel free to discuss minimally invasive heart surgery with them and share the information you have acquired on this topic. Most centers are glad to supply additional information and support and their surgeons are available to talk to you and your doctors. It has become very common to see out-of-state patients travel from any where in the U.S. to a center that can reliably offer minimally invasive heart surgery service, whether it is a single, double or even triple valve. The same options are also offered for coronary artery bypass surgery, atrial myxoma, atrial septal defect, septal hypertrophy.
Why should you go through all this trouble? The most obvious advantages are:
Less bleeding with most patients not requiring any blood transfusion
Less pain. Most patients are out of bed and walking within 24 hours
Wound infections are exceedingly rare, almost unheard of
Excellent cosmetic results. The surgical scar can be hidden in the skin fold underneath the breast
Short hospital stay. Most patients return home to their families within two to three days
The more you know, the better it is. After all, it is about your heart and your life.