When Ramona Richman's older sister was diagnosed with high cholesterol, Richman wasn't worried about her own risk. The San Francisco Bay Area stay-at-home mom had her weight under control and assumed that her diet was healthy. So when her doctor broke the news that she, too, had high cholesterol, she was shocked. Her reading of 269 mg/dL was well over the desirable level of less than 200 mg/dL. "My sister had high cholesterol and went on medication, so I imagine that it's a genetic thing," Richman,...
In minimally invasive heart surgery, the surgeon makes a smaller incision in the chest. The
aortic valve is located near the front of the chest. So surgeons have discovered
that aortic valve replacement can be done successfully through this
Surgeons may do this minimally invasive surgery in different
ways. These variations include different ways to:
removing the breathing tube sooner after surgery.
Less pain during
recovery from surgery.
Shorter hospital stay.
Lower risk of infection.
Easier treatment in
cases of infection.
Quicker recovery and return to previous level
Lower overall risk of complications, including
What are the controversies over these benefits?
Researchers are still studying the results of minimally invasive
surgery to figure out whether all these benefits can be attributed to this
technique. Some studies have found that people who had minimally invasive
surgery enjoyed many of these benefits. Other studies have found that there has
not been a significant difference between minimally invasive surgery and
conventional valve replacement surgery, at least in some areas of potential
Minimally invasive surgery can be safe and effective for the
purposes of replacing the aortic valve. One drawback is that because
this surgery is more technically complex, it often takes longer to complete. So
far, this increase in time required for surgery does not appear to have had an
impact on how well the surgery works. The one benefit that
minimally invasive surgery is guaranteed to provide is a smaller scar, given
that the incision is smaller. But it still remains to be seen whether the
benefits consistently extend beyond this cosmetic benefit.
Should I consider minimally invasive valve replacement surgery?
Surgeons are still working to perfect minimally invasive surgery.
Greater experience with this technique will likely decrease the time required
for surgery and increase the chance that people who have this surgery will
enjoy the benefits.
Your decision to have minimally invasive surgery, if that option is
available to you, should be based on your doctors' explanations of the benefits
and any potential drawbacks of the surgery, which should be based on their
experience and current medical literature. You should ask your surgeon about
how minimally invasive surgery has benefited other people who had the surgery
and what any recent studies have shown.