The outcomes of cardiac surgery have improved, and the associated risks and complications have reduced considerably today, thanks to the skills of surgeons, modern technology, and better care after surgery in ICU. Earlier, open-heart surgery was the only option for people with severe cardiac ailments. The advent of minimally invasive cardiac surgery has immensely benefitted these patients in many ways, including faster recovery and discharge from the hospital.
To understand this procedure well, we spoke to Dr Bipeenchandra Bhamre, a Consultant Cardiac Surgeon at Sir H. N. Reliance Foundation Hospital and Research Centre in Mumbai. He also answered some of the frequently asked questions about cardiac surgery. Excerpts:
How is minimally invasive cardiac surgery different form open-heart surgery?
In minimally invasive cardiac surgery, incisions are made on the side of the chest to reach the heart between the ribs, instead, of cutting via the breastbone, as done during open-heart surgery. It makes it easier for the surgeons to reach the heart through the ribs.
When can one opt for minimally invasive heart surgery?
Your surgeon will decide whether you are the right candidate for this surgery. Minimally invasive heart surgery can help one to tackle various heart conditions like atrial septal defect and patent foramen ovale closure, coronary artery bypass surgery, aotric valve replacement ,mitral valve repair or replacement, tricuspid valve repair or replacement.
What are the benefits of minimally invasive heart surgery?
This approach is less invasive than traditional open-heart surgery, in which surgeons open the chest in order to access the heart. There is no need of opening the chest or cutting the bones in this type of surgery. There will be faster recovery, less pain, minimal scarring, minimal blood loss, decreased chances of infection, shorter hospital stay, and less need for blood transfusion.
With minimally invasive heart surgery, patients are able to return to their normal life sooner, meaning their life doesn't get interrupted in a big way.
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How long it takes to recover from the surgery?
You may be able to go home 3 to 5 days after the surgery. It will take about 3 weeks for a patient to be able to return to work and do other activities. However, the recovery time is different for everyone. You need to avoid driving a car or any heavy activities after the surgery. The doctor will tell you about when to resume doing these activities. It will be imperative for you to follow the doctor's advice.
What are the precautions to take after the surgery?
It is essential to adhere to lifestyle changes and take medication as suggested by the doctor. One needs to give up on smoking, manage high cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure levels, eat a well-balanced diet, maintain an optimum weight, exercise daily, and go for regular follow-ups.
Minimally invasive heart surgery may not be for everyone. The doctor can only decide whether a heart patient should be referred for a minimally invasive surgery or an open-heart one after examining several factors such as patient's health, for what condition they are being operated upon, their history of health, etc. Also, minimally invasive heart surgeries are quite complex and require experts trained in the procedure to successfully complete the surgery.