Traditional open heart surgery is invasive (typically involving a 6- to 8-inch incision through the breastbone) and requires a long healing and recovery process. Minimally invasive heart surgery offers an alternative to some types of open heart surgery, resulting in less pain and faster recovery for most people. Minimally invasive heart surgery may incorporate robotic technology to assist surgeons during this procedure.

Here’s what you need to know.

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The Heart of the Matter

In minimally invasive (robotic) heart surgery, your surgeon will make one or more small incisions between your ribs. Then, surgical instruments—along with a tiny camera—are inserted through the incision. The surgical tools are connected to robotic arms that the surgeon controls with a computerized device. This allows your surgeon to better manipulate the instruments and perform the procedure more precisely.

This type of surgery can be used for several different heart procedures, including:

  • Coronary bypass
  • Valve surgery
  • Aneurysm repair

What to Expect During Minimally Invasive Heart Surgery

Because it involves a smaller incision, minimally invasive heart surgery can have a number of benefits for patients. These include:

  • Less pain
  • Less scarring
  • Shorter hospital stays after surgery
  • Lower risk of infection and bleeding
  • Shorter recovery time

People who undergo minimally invasive heart surgery usually return home two to five days after the procedure. In general, it takes between one and four weeks to recover from this form of surgery. In comparison, open heart surgery has a typical recovery time that can be twice as long.

However, not everyone is eligible for minimally invasive or robotic surgery. Your surgeon will weigh the risks and benefits of these techniques with traditional open heart surgery and determine the best choice depending on your age, medical history, the type of heart problem you have, and other factors.

Want to learn more about minimally invasive heart surgery? Visit the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute website or contact us at 1-855-UPMC-HVI (876-2484).

About Heart and Vascular Institute

The UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute has long been a leader in cardiovascular care, with a rich history in clinical research and innovation. As one of the first heart transplant centers in the country and as the developer of one of the first heart-assist devices, UPMC has contributed to advancing the field of cardiovascular medicine. We strive to provide the most advanced, cutting-edge care for our patients, treating both common and complex conditions. We also offer services that seek to improve the health of our communities, including heart screenings, free clinics, and heart health education. Find an expert near you.