Operations to repair or replace heart valves have traditionally involved a long incision in the chest to get to the heart, followed by a lengthy hospital stay. McLeod Cardiothoracic Surgeon Robert Messier, MD, PhD, explains the many patient benefits of minimally invasive heart valve surgery.
Here’s a summary of Dr. Messier’s comments:
Heart valves are structures within the body of the heart where blood is collected and then moved throughout the body. Valves are comprised of soft tissue and they can wear out in a number of ways. They can become too tight, where the opening and closing process is restricted or they can become too loose such that the closing process is incomplete.
Valves in the human heart can be replaced and repaired through small incisions in the chest rather than the traditional up-and-down, sternum-splitting incision. There are two minimally invasive options for mitral, aortic and tricuspid valves. We repair and replace heart valves through four-five centimeter incisions off to the side, between the ribs. The ribs are spread gently not broken. We use telescopic equipment and high resolution video assistance to perform the same surgery in a less invasive, less painful, less cosmetically visible way. This can be performed with both aortic and mitral valves, the two most common, as well as the tricuspid heart valves.
The minimally invasive approach is excellent with respect to easing the pain and the ordeal itself of recovery. Rather than waking up in the intensive care unit with a breathing tube in place, these patients are often put on natural breathing before they leave the operating room.
The trauma to the patient is less, bleeding is less and the likelihood of infection is less. Patients are up walking the next day much more commonly than those that have had the chest incision. They’ll come out of the operating room with one small drainage tube rather than four drainage tubes. It’s less traumatic to the heart, less traumatic to the patient. The requirement for blood transfusion is less. Basically, every study has indicated that the minimally invasive approach is an advantage.