What You Should Know About Heart Surgery
By Charles Stivala, DO, Cardiothoracic Surgeon
Virtua Cardiothoracic Surgery – Cherry Hill
The news from your cardiologist is serious—you need heart surgery.
Fortunately, heart procedures have evolved greatly over the years. In many cases, surgeons perform surgery through small incisions or even a catheter, a thin tube used to access veins and arteries. As a result, patients return to their lives more quickly than ever.
A minimally invasive approach to heart surgery
Coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery is one of the most common heart procedures used to open up narrow or blocked arteries. Commonly thought of as “open-heart surgery,” this procedure is necessary if a person has multiple blockages in several arteries and stents (tubes used to keep arteries open) have failed to restore proper blood flow.
During CABG surgery, healthy blood vessels, called grafts, are taken from the leg or chest and attached to arteries that supply blood to the heart. Blood flows through the new vessels, bypassing the blockages.
Depending on the number and location in the chest, surgeons now frequently access the blockages through small incisions between the ribs or just under the breastbone. This helps avoid the need for open-heart surgery.
In addition, surgeons often can operate while the heart is still beating, eliminating the need for a heart-lung bypass machine to take over function of the heart and lungs temporarily during the procedure. This also helps reduce pain and shorten recovery time.
Robot-assisted heart surgery
Robot-assisted surgery is one of the newest minimally invasive approaches using 3-D, high-definition cameras and instruments that are inserted through small incisions in the ribs to perform CABG or other procedures. The surgeon controls the robot’s cameras and instruments from a nearby console, increasing precision while reducing the patient’s risk of scarring and infection.
Robot-assisted surgery has several other key advantages:
- Incisions are smaller than with traditional open-heart surgery.
- Surgery often is performed on a beating heart, reducing the risk of complications.
- Patients recover more quickly, leaving the hospital within days and returning to work within weeks.
A minimally invasive approach to valve replacement
As with bypass surgery, traditional heart valve repair or replacement required a large incision through the chest.
Today, procedures like transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) are done through a small incision in the upper leg. The valve is guided through a catheter to the heart. Patients usually go home after one to three days in the hospital.
All of these advances make heart surgery safer and less traumatic for patients, helping them return to their lives in a shorter time.
Take the next step to a healthier heart
If you know heart surgery is in your future, call 1-888-847-8823 to schedule a consultation with a Virtua Health cardiothoracic surgeon to learn about your options.
For monthly heart health news, classes and support group information, sign up today for Virtua’s heart health newsletter.
Updated January 14, 2022