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Minimally invasive heart bypass

Blockages caused by plaque buildup in the arteries of the heart can restrict blood flow to the heart muscle. The restriction of blood flow deprives the heart muscle of oxygen and nutrients needed to function. If left untreated, loss of blood flow to the heart muscle can lead to chest pain, called angina, and heart attack.

Through diagnostic tests, multiple blockages may de discovered and need treatment. Failure to treat blockages in the heart can be potentially fatal. Bypass surgery uses a vein or artery from another location in your body, typically your legs, to bypass the blockages in your heart and allow blood flow to return. The substitute arteries, also called grafts, are connected to your blocked arteries to redirect blood flow around the blockage through the new vessel by “bypassing” the disease artery. During minimally invasive bypass surgery, your surgeon will perform the bypass through a small incision in your chest, often resulting in a smaller surgery site, smaller scar, shorter hospital stay and shorter recovery time. The surgery doesn’t require the entire chest to be opened and breastbone broken. Minimally invasive bypass surgery is an option for a limited number of bypass patients, specifically those who require a left internal mammary artery graft to the left anterior descending artery, which is accessible without opening the chest and removing the heart.

What to expect during this procedure

  • Pre-admission testing may be required prior to your surgery. This consists of multiple tests that will help your care team and surgeons prepare to care for you during and after surgery.
  • The day of your surgery, you will be asked to arrive at the hospital several hours before your surgery. Please be sure to follow all pre-surgery instructions.
  • Prior to your surgery you will be taken back to the hospital’s pre-surgery area, where you will be prepped for surgery. Some tests will be performed, an IV will be started and other preparations will be made. You will be asked to change into a gown and remove all jewelry. Your family and friends will be asked to wait in the hospital’s surgery family room.
  • Members of your surgery team, including your cardiovascular surgeon and anesthesiologist, will meet with you prior to surgery to answer any questions.
  • You will be transported from the pre-surgery area to the operating room, and an anesthesiologist will give you medication to help you sleep.
  • During minimally invasive bypass surgery, the surgeon will make a small incision (about three inches) to perform the bypass.
  • Minimally invasive heart surgery is performed while your heart continues to circulate blood through your body and does not require the use of a heart-lung machine.
  • Once the bypass is complete, your surgeon will close your incision with special stitches. Pacing wires and a chest tube to drain fluid are sometimes placed in your chest before it is closed completely. Sometimes a temporary pacemaker is attached to pacing wires to regulate your heart rhythm until your condition improves.
  • Traditional bypass surgery typically takes three to five hours to complete depending on the number of bypass grafts required, but minimally invasive bypass surgery often is completed in a shorter period of time.
  • Members from your surgical team will update your family and friends on your condition and results from surgery.

What to expect after this procedure

  • You will be transferred to the hospital’s open-heart unit for monitoring. The open-heart unit is a special intensive care unit staffed with specially trained intensive care nurses and staff.
  • Your health and progress will be continuously monitored. Monitoring includes frequent checks of your vital signs, heart sounds, blood oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.
  • As your health improves, you eventually will be removed from some monitors. Patients typically stay in the open-heart unit for two to three days after traditional bypass surgery, but recover time typically is much shorter with minimally invasive bypass surgery.

Returning home

  • Full recovery from minimally invasive bypass surgery takes two to three months. Most patients are able to drive three to eight weeks after surgery. Sexual activity can be resumed in three to four weeks, depending on your rate of recovery.
  • Most people with jobs that require little physical exertion can start back to work four to six weeks after surgery. If your job is physically demanding (such as construction work or heavy lifting), you may have to wait up to 12 weeks or longer before returning.
  • Your surgeon and cardiologist will schedule multiple follow-up visits with you after surgery and will work with you to develop a recovery plan. Often, cardiac rehabilitation is recommended by your physician to help you regain strength and energy and encourage healthy lifestyle changes
  • Bypass surgery doesn’t prevent heart disease from recurring. Lifestyle changes are important, including quitting smoking, exercising regularly, managing weight, treating high cholesterol, controlling diabetes and high blood pressure, improving your diet, taking prescribed medications and following up with your doctor for regular visits.

This procedure is offered at:

  •  Norton Audubon Hospital
  • To find a physician visit our Find a Doc or call (502) 629-1234 for a physician referral.

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