What started as a surgical treatment option for patients considered too fragile for open-heart surgery, is now rapidly picking up steam as the go-to approach for medical specialists on the team of Baylor Scott & White The Heart Hospital – Plano* performing complex cardiovascular surgeries — all without the need for open-heart surgery.
This game-changing approach is called minimally invasive heart surgery. Here’s what you need to know:
How does minimally invasive heart surgery work?
When one thinks of “heart surgery,” they typically also think of the surgeon opening the patient’s chest, hence the term “open-heart surgery.”
Minimally invasive heart surgery involves making small incisions between the ribs on the patient’s right side to get to the heart. Sometimes, this involves using tiny robotic tools and a camera to perform the surgery. Sometimes, a robot alone is used to complete the procedure. This is in contrast to the traditional surgical approach of cutting through the breastbone.
Robert L. Smith II, MD, cardiothoracic surgeon on the medical staff of Baylor Scott & White The Heart Hospital – Plano*, acknowledges how daunting the prospect of any surgery can be.
“The severity of surgery, particularly the physical pain, is one of the most common fears that patients have,” Dr. Smith says. “They fear the reason they need surgery and how life may be changed afterward. But minimally invasive heart surgery really relaxes the issue of the physical pain from surgery. There is a hope that surgery won’t set them back in getting back to where they want to be.”
Compared to traditional open-heart surgery, minimally invasive heart surgery usually results in the following benefits:
- A shorter hospital stay
- Less blood loss
- Less pain after surgery
- Less (and smaller) scarring
- Quicker return to regular activity
- Fewer complications
- Decreased risk of infection
Sow hat are realistic expectations a patient can have for the procedure, recovery, and moving forward with life post-surgery?
“A lot of that depends on age, degree of debility, and extent of the underlying heart condition,” Dr. Smith says. “On average, people stay in the hospital 3-5 days after robotic valve surgery. They require pain medications for a week or two, and can be back to driving as soon as they are off those medications. Our goal is to get people back to feeling well, as soon as possible. In many instances, this will include cardiac rehab as an adjunct to that process.”
Compared to open-heart surgery’s typical recovery time of six to 12 weeks, patients who undergo a minimally invasive procedure may fully recover within a two- to four-week window. Most patients can return to their normal activities in one to four weeks following their procedure.
Which conditions are treated with minimally invasive heart surgery?
The nationally-recognized surgical team at Baylor Scott & White The Heart Hospital – Plano* specializes in treating the following conditions with minimally invasive techniques: aortic valve stenosis, atrial fibrillation (AFib), mitral valve prolapse, and heart attack.
Strong outcomes are the top priority of the Hospital’s surgical team. The surgeons take a minimally invasive approach to treat heart disorders first, whenever possible.
Am I a candidate for minimally invasive heart surgery?
Whether a patient is a candidate depends on certain factors, including a person’s health history and their diagnosis.” Your doctor will work with you to determine the best surgical procedure for your condition.
“Our goal is to get someone feeling the best they can before surgery. That’s physically and emotionally,” Dr. Smith says. “We generally want people eating low salt and healthfully. We ideally have good control of their other medical conditions, so we can really focus on correcting the heart condition. Also, we want to see them getting support from home and their community. Getting someone as healthy as possible before surgery helps the recovery process immensely.”
Baylor Scott & White The Heart Hospital – Plano*, has been recognized as one of the nation’s elite hospitals for cardiac surgery. They have received three-star ratings – the highest rating possible – in multiple categories for their patient care and outcomes by The Society of Thoracic Surgeons. Baylor Scott & White The Heart Hospital – Plano is also nationally ranked by U.S. News & World Report for 2021-2022 Cardiology and Heart Surgery and as a Best Specialty Hospital.
So, to say the least, your heart health is in capable hands if you’re a candidate for minimally invasive heart surgery.
*Joint ownership with physicians