This illustration shows how doctors can enter a patient's chest without sawing open the breastbone. With this technique, a patient can have a heart bypass with fewer complications including bleeding and infection. Instead of a months-long recovery, patients return home in as few as 3 days.
Heart surgery that once required months of recovery is now obsolete thanks to a new technique that allows patients to return to normal activity in as little as three days.
Dr. James O’Rourke, a heart surgeon at Lourdes, said the old technique for coronary bypass required surgeons to saw through the breast bone or sternum and separate the rib cage to reach the heart for a bypass. This was painful to patients and required 3 months minimum to heal. Bleeding is common with this procedure, and an infection can lead to complications for the rest of a patients life.
“The new technique doesn’t require us to cut through the bone, and there is virtually no need for a transfusion during the procedure,” O’Rourke said. “Now patients are able to go home after about two days in the hospital. They can use something like Advil or Tylenol for what pain they have.”
Minimally Invasive Cardiac Surgery (MICS) is performed through a small incision made under the patients breast. Surgeons use special instruments to access the heart through the rib cage. The incision is about 2-to-4 inches instead of the 6-to-8-inch incision required for a traditional sternotomy.
O’Rourke said surgeons at Lourdes ceased stopping hearts and using heart lung machines 3 years ago. This reduced risks to patients. The new procedure allows doctors to access the heart muscle and bypass multiple blockages in many parts of the heart. He performs an average of one bypass every three weeks. As his office grows more proficient with the technique, he expects to perform more such procedures.
“Coronary bypass is still the most common heart surgery we perform, and we expect another 500,000 will be performed in the U.S. in the next year. We’re trying to make this less invasive and looking to give our patients a more positive outcome,” O’Rourke said.