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Traditional Heart Valve Surgery

During typical “open-chest” surgery to repair or replace a heart valve:

  • The surgeon makes one large main incision in the middle of the chest through the breastbone to access the heart.
  • A heart-lung machine takes over the job of circulating blood throughout the body during the surgery, because the heart must be still and quiet while the surgeon operates.

There is an alternative to traditional “open-chest” surgery

Many surgeons are now able to offer their patients minimal incision valve surgery as an effective alternative to open-chest heart valve surgery.

How minimal incision valve surgery is performed

Minimal incision valve surgery does not require a large incision or cutting through the entire breastbone because the surgeon:

  • Can gain access through one of three smaller, much less visible incisions(sometimes called “ports”). These incisions are made either between the ribs, or a smaller incision through the breastbone, as well as a smaller incision in the groin.Valve Surgery
  • Repairs or replaces the diseased valve through one or more of the ports, looking at the heart directly or through a small, tube-shaped camera.

Our doctors will evaluate whether you are a candidate for a minimal incision procedure instead of traditional open-chest surgery.

During the more than 15 years that this surgical option has been available, numerous studies have demonstrated that a minimal incision approach offers patients a number of advantages, including:

  • Less pain and trauma to the body
    Since the incision is much smaller and the breastbone remains intact (or less affected than with open-chest surgery), most patients report that they have less pain.
  • Lower risk of complications
    The less invasive approach reduces the possibility of complications related to a full incision through the breastbone.
  • Faster recovery and return to normal activity
    Most patients recover more quickly after a minimal incision procedure. Patients typically spend less time in the intensive care unit after surgery, and are able to return home sooner. Many patients (46%) return to work within 4 weeks. By the eighth week, 71% are back at work or resuming normal activities.

In comparison, it takes an average of 10 weeks to return to normal activity after a typical open-chest procedure.

  • A smaller, less visible scar
    Most patients are very pleased with the cosmetic results of the procedure. Unlike a larger scar in the middle of the chest, the smaller scar is hardly visible.

Most patients report that they would choose the minimal incision approach again if they found themselves facing the same situation.

Learn more about your heart valves and heart valve disease.

What a heart valve doesHeart Valve Disease

Educational content provided by Edwards Lifesciences

Texas Surgical Associates