Traditionally, surgeons access a patient’s heart by performing a sternotomy, which involves opening the breast bone to gain exposure of the heart. Minimally invasive heart surgery is performed through a small incision made under the patient’s breast, whereby the surgeon uses special instruments to access the heart through the rib cage. The incision is about 2 to 4 inches instead of the 6- to 8-inch incision required for a traditional sternotomy.
The benefits of minimally invasive heart surgery include a smaller incision and scar, lower risk of infection, less bleeding, less trauma, a potentially decreased hospital stay and a quicker return to normal activities. The average stay after minimally invasive cardiac surgery is 3 to 5 days, while the average stay after traditional open surgery is 5 days.
Minimally invasive cardiac surgery can be used as an approach to valve repair, valve replacement, coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery and the treatment of atrial fibrillation.