What you can expect
During the procedure
Minimally invasive heart surgery includes robot-assisted heart surgery, thoracoscopic surgery and surgery through a small incision in the chest (direct less invasive access heart surgery). In all types of minimally invasive procedures, surgeons reach your heart through small incisions between the ribs of your chest.
A tool with a small video camera inserted through one of the incisions will enable the surgeon to see inside your body.
Most minimally invasive procedures use a heart-lung bypass machine, as is used in open-heart surgery. The machine keeps blood moving through your body during the procedure.
Robot-assisted heart surgery
In robot-assisted heart surgery, the surgeon uses robotic arms, rather than his or her hands, to perform the exact maneuvers used in traditional open-heart surgery.
During this procedure, your surgeon works at a remote console and views your heart in a magnified high-definition 3D view on a video monitor. From the console, your surgeon's hand movements translate precisely to the robotic arms at the operating table, which move similarly to the human wrist.
A second surgeon and surgical team assist at the operating table, changing surgical instruments attached to the robotic arms.
In thoracoscopic surgery (sometimes referred to as a minithoracotomy), your surgeon inserts a long, thin tube (thoracoscope) containing a tiny high-definition video camera into a small incision in your chest.
Your surgeon repairs your heart using long instruments inserted through small incisions between your ribs.
After the procedure
You'll generally spend a day or so in the intensive care unit (ICU). You'll be given fluids and medications through intravenous (IV) lines. Other tubes placed during surgery will drain urine from your bladder and fluid and blood from your chest. You might be given oxygen through a facemask or prongs in your nose.
After the ICU, you'll be moved to a regular hospital room for several days. The time you spend in the ICU and hospital will depend on your condition and surgery.
Your treatment team will:
- Monitor your condition and watch for signs of infection in your incision sites
- Monitor your blood pressure, breathing and heart rate
- Work with you to manage pain
- Get you up and walking and instruct you to gradually increase your activity
- Show you how to do deep-breathing exercises and instruct you to cough to keep your lungs clear
Your doctor will give you instructions to follow during your recovery, such as watching for signs of infection in your incisions, caring for your incisions, taking medications and managing pain.