Benefits of Minimally Invasive Heart Surgery
Thousands of minimally invasive cardiac surgeries are performed each year in the United States, providing a number of benefits to patients. One of the most important is avoiding a sternotomy, or open-chest surgery. Surgeons perform sternotomies by making an eight- to 10-inch incision in the chest in order to reach the heart. In contrast, minimally invasive surgical procedures are done through much smaller incisions, resulting in:
- Reduced bleeding
- Better visualization for the surgeon for a more accurate repair
- Fewer infections after surgery
- Noticeable cosmetic improvements — with minimally invasive surgery, patients receive a three-inch incision on the right side of the chest instead of a 10-inch scar down the middle. And in women, the scar is often completely hidden under the breast.
- Less pain and fewer complications
- A smaller amount of pain medications, which allows for a quicker healing process.
- A quicker return to everyday activities — many patients can resume their normal activities in two to four weeks, instead of the eight weeks, or more, that may be required with open-chest surgery. (All patients, however, should talk to their doctor about returning to pre-surgery activity levels as well as their readiness to drive.)
On average, patients who have had minimally invasive heart surgery with no complications are in the hospital for four days. In comparison, the average stay after a full, open-chest surgery is five to 10 days. But even with a small incision, the healing process may be uncomfortable at first. Talk to your doctor or nurse about the various pain-relief remedies, which can range from prescription medications to warm compresses.
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One Patient's Story
He found a happy option to open-heart surgery.