Minimally invasive procedures treat cardiac disorders by utilizing smaller incisions. As a result, patients typically experience less pain during recovery and can usually return to work or normal activities more quickly.
Atrial fibrillation is the uncoordinated contraction of the upper chambers of the heart, or atria. It is a serious problem that may have life-threatening health risks, including an increased risk of heart failure and stroke.
During atrial fibrillation, the atria quiver instead of beating effectively. Blood isn't pumped completely out of them, so it may pool and clot. If a blood clot becomes lodged in an artery in the brain, a stroke results.
Most patients with atrial fibrillation are initially treated with medications that restore the heart's normal rhythm and blood thinners that help prevent blood clots. Candidates for minimally invasive procedures include patients who don't want to take lifetime medications and particularly those for whom medications have failed.
A minimally invasive "maze" procedure can help identify the origin of atrial fibrillation and treat it surgically. During this procedure, long catheters are inserted via small incisions between the ribs to access the heart while it is beating. Surgeons then eliminate the abnormal conduction pathways on the heart, using ultrasound or cryoablation to freeze tissue, or electrocautery to treat abnormal tissue with heat.
Minimally invasive procedures can also be used to repair or replace heart valves. John Muir Health offers two main types of minimally invasive valve procedure – one for the mitral valve, which controls blood flow between the upper and lower chambers of the heart, and the other for the aortic valve, which regulates blood flow from the ventricle, or lower chamber of the heart and aorta.
The mitral valve is repaired when possible, but in some cases must be replaced with a prosthetic valve. In some cases, another minimally-invasive operation can be performed using a three-inch incision made between the ribs on the right side of the chest.
Minimally invasive techniques are also available to replace the aortic valve in patients who are considered good candidates. These procedures include either a partial sternotomy (incision of the sternum) or a small incision made between the ribs.
John Muir Health offers treatment of aortic aneurysms and dissections as a minimally invasive option to open-chest surgery. In this innovative procedure, a catheter is inserted through a small incision in the groin to place a tube-shaped endograft, or stent, inside the damaged or diseased area of the aorta. For patients with large or rapidly growing aneurysms at risk of rupture, this "endovascular stenting" is a safer, quicker surgical procedure that requires less recovery time.