Minimally Invasive Surgery
A standard sternotomy is performed through a limited skin incision (usually 4 to 6 inches) over the lower half of the sternum, which limits the actual amount of opening, and thus chest wall trauma. The surgeon then saws through the breastbone to allow access to the heart. In some patients, it is possible to perform a mitral valve repair through a smaller incision. Use of such small incisions is termed "minimally invasive surgery". The advantage of a small incision is mainly cosmetic (the scars are smaller and less visible). In some patients, the pain after surgery may be reduced and recovery from surgery is faster when surgery is done through a smaller incision. Operating through small incisions is however more technically demanding and in some cases could reduce the safety of the procedure.
We offer minimally invasive surgery to selected patients. Not all patients are suitable for minimally invasive surgery. Patients who require additional cardiac procedures like coronary artery bypass surgery, elderly patients, patients with very diseased arteries, and patients with a very weakly contracting heart will not be suitable for this approach. Finally, our paramount objective is to ensure a good valve repair, with no residual leakage, at a low operative risk. Our surgeons will only perform a repair through a small incision when they believe they can do a good quality valve repair at a low risk to the patient; if the valve disease is complicated (as assessed by the echocardiogram) then we recommend a full incision as we believe a larger scar is preferable to an imperfect repair.
Ask the surgeon if this is an option for you.