Published on October 23, 2017

Minimally invasive heart surgery

Tiny incisions, a big help for your heart

Surgeon making heart with handsWhich would you choose if you needed heart surgery?

A. Surgery with a far easier recovery time than is typical.
B. The status quo.

A, right? Well, with the help of the highly skilled Mercy cardiothoracic surgeons, you might get your wish. Together, they perform a wide range of minimally invasive heart surgeries at Mercy Fitzgerald and the Lourdes Cardiovascular Institute. And many people are candidates.

An impressive list of benefits

To perform these operations, surgeons use tiny incisions to access the heart and nearby blood vessels. But instead of splitting the breastbone, they insert instruments under it or between the ribs.

Compared to standard open-heart surgery, this minimally invasive approach has important advantages, says Deon Vigilance, MD, Chief of Cardiac Surgery at Mercy Fitzgerald. It:

  • Reduces pain.
  • Reduces bleeding and the need for blood transfusions.
  • Lowers the risk of infections and complications.
  • Results in minimal scarring.
  • Speeds healing—you’ll probably return to your normal routine in just three to five days.

A delicate, inside job

Here’s a look at the often life-saving heart surgeries our doctors perform as minimally invasive procedures:

Heart bypass surgery. This diverts blood flow around dangerously blocked heart arteries. Doctors take a healthy blood vessel from the leg or chest and connect it to the heart so that blood bypasses the blockage.

In a standard surgery, the heart is stopped and a heart-lung machine keeps blood filled with oxygen. “But in a minimally invasive surgery, the heart still beats,” explains Dr. Vigilance. “This reduces the risk of a stroke, a possible complication of the heart-lung machine.”

Through a special partnership, our surgeons also perform robotically assisted bypass surgery at Lourdes Cardiovascular Institute. The use of a robot helps make this surgery, which is also minimally invasive, even more precise.

Heart valve surgery. Again using tiny incisions, our surgeons can repair or replace damaged heart valves that can cause serious heart problems.

At Lourdes, our surgeons also perform a type of minimally invasive surgery called transcatheter aortic valve replacement—or TAVR for short. It is used to treat a badly damaged aortic valve, one of the four valves in the heart.

Ablation surgery. This surgery treats atrial fibrillation (A-Fib), a condition in which the heart beats in an irregular way. A-Fib raises the risk of stroke.
During ablation surgery, doctors use a catheter to deliver radiofrequency energy (similar to microwave heat) to a small area of heart tissue that is causing the irregular heartbeats. The radiofrequency energy destroys the abnormal tissue and helps restore a normal heart rhythm.

Compassionate, close-to-home care

Living in the Philadelphia area, you have many choices for where to have heart surgery. That’s why you should know that the types of minimally invasive heart surgeries our specialists provide are equal to those at any major academic center, Dr. Vigilance says.

And, just as important, our care is as personalized as it is advanced. “Mercy Fitzgerald has deep roots in the community,” Dr. Vigilance says. “And many of the people who turn to us say they feel more like neighbors or family members than patients.”