Minimally Invasive Procedures
Our team of world-class affiliated cardiovascular surgeons are developing and perfecting innovative, minimally invasive techniques that continue to put Memorial Hermann at the forefront of advancing heart health in Houston.
What are Minimally Invasive Heart Procedures?
In minimally invasive heart (including heart valve) procedures, cardiac surgeons access the heart through small incisions in the chest walls, eliminating the need to split the patient’s breastbone (sternotomy). These procedures are less traumatic and typically reduce a patient’s pain and recovery time.
Types of Minimally Invasive Heart Procedures
The affiliated cardiac surgeons at Memorial Hermann perform several minimally invasive heart procedures, including:
- Mitral Valve Repair and Replacement – In mitral valve disease, the mitral valve, located between the heart’s leftchambers (left atrium and left ventricle), malfunctions. In the most severe cases, the flaps of the valve become thick or stiff and fuse together, requiring surgery. Through a small incision in the patient’s chest, the surgeon repairs or replaces the defective valve.
- Aortic Valve Replacement (AVR) – Aortic valve disease occurs when the aortic valve (the valve between the heart and the body) doesn’t work properly. In some cases, surgery is required to replace the defective valve. Surgeons will often use a bioprosthetic heart valve, an advancement that allows some patients to avoid anticoagulant therapy (blood thinners). During traditional AVR surgery, the surgeon makes a large incision in the chest and the heart is stopped, during which time the blood pressure and oxygen levels are maintained with a heart-lung machine (cardiopulmonary bypass). In the minimally invasive procedure, the surgeon works though a small incision(s), and the heart never stops beating.
- Coronary Artery Bypass Graft – In lieu of the large incision made in the traditional coronary artery bypass surgery (or graft, CABG), exposing the patient’s heart, in the minimally invasive procedure, the surgeon makes several small incisions, exposing only the sections of the arteries that require grafts. This minimizes scarring and lowers a patient’s risk of infection.
- Wolf Mini-Maze Procedure for Atrial Fibrillation – Using this minimally invasive surgical technique for patients with lone atrial fibrillation (AFib, arrhythmia), the surgeon endoscopically ablates and isolates the pulmonary veins – the location of the AFib triggers – then removes the left atrial appendage, the site of clot formation that can lead to strokes in patients with AFib. The procedure can significantly reduce a patient’s risk of stroke and typically can eliminate the need for blood thinners.
- Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) – TAVR is an innovative, minimally invasive treatment for patients with severe aortic stenosis (narrowing of the valve in the aorta) who are not candidates for open heart surgery. TAVR uses catheters in blood vessels to replace the aortic valve with a specially designed artificial valve. The new heart valve is inserted via a small incision in a major artery. Once in place, the new valve expands, pushing the diseased valve aside to increase blood flow through the heart.
- Thoracic Endovascular Aortic Aneurysm Repair (TEVAR) – TEVAR is a minimally invasive alternative to open surgical repair of diseases of the thoracic aorta (a section of the aorta within the chest). The procedure is most commonly used to correct a thoracic aneurysm (an abnormal bulge in a weakened aortic wall). Using the TEVAR procedure, the surgeon inserts a fabric-covered metal stent into the aneurysm as a replacement for the diseased segment of the aorta.
- Endovascular Abdominal Aneurysm Repair (EVAR) – An abdominal aortic aneurysm is an enlarged area in the lower part of the aorta, the major blood vessel that supplies blood to the body. Depending on the size and exact location of the aneurysm, surgery may be required to repair or remove the damaged tissue. In a minimally invasive procedure, using local anesthesia, the surgeon makes small incisions in the patient’s groin and threads catheter tubes through the femoral arteries and into the aorta. A fabric-covered metal stent is introduced through the artery and fixed in place, relieving pressure on the artery to prevent rupture.
Benefits of Minimally Invasive Heart Procedures
Typically, minimally invasive heart procedures can offer several benefits over conventional procedures, including:
- Less trauma to the chest
- Smaller, less noticeable scars
- Less blood loss
- Lower risk of infection
- Reduced pain
- Shorter hospital stays
- Reduced recovery times
What to Expect
Typically, less invasive procedures can enable patients to return to their daily routines sooner when compared to traditional open procedures. Generally after minimally invasive procedures, patients will spend one-to-three nights in the hospital, depending on the procedure. Complete healing after minimally invasive procedures may take two-to-three weeks.. In contrast, traditional open procedures usually require several days in the hospital and weeks or even months of recovery time.
To learn more about minimally invasive procedures, our cardiologists, or treatment facilities, please use our contact form here. Schedule an appointment with a Memorial Hermann Cardiologist online or by calling (713) 222-2273.