Is Minimally Invasive Heart Surgery Right for You?

Is Minimally Invasive Surgery Right for You?

The advent of minimally invasive surgical techniques has arguably been the most significant development in surgical practice since anesthesia.  By developing technology that allows surgeons to perform intricate surgical procedures through smaller and smaller incisions, surgeons have provided their patients with faster recovery times, reduced perioperative pain to almost imperceptible levels, and allowed patients to return to work and play much more quickly than ever before.  While minimally invasive surgery has enumerable benefits, one must keep in mind that that while these techniques may improve the experience for patients, they have become increasingly more complicated for surgeons to perform and carry added risks inherent with performing very complex operations with less direct control.

Minimally Invasive Heart Surgery and Mitral Valve Operation

Photo Credit: Wikimedia.org

Yet, and still, minimally invasive techniques have become appropriate for an increasing numbers of patients and represent an excellent option for many patients.  When one is presented with a minimally invasive option, there are a number of considerations that are extremely important to consider in decreasing order of importance:

#1 – Will I be alive after the procedure? (Risk of Mortality/Morbidity)

Paramount in your decision making should be the risk of mortality.  Does this procedure, when done minimally invasively, carry a mortality risk that is the same or better than conventional surgery? Further, does your surgeon have enough experience with this technique to adequately answer this question?  If the answers are yes, then consider #2.  If not, then conventional surgery may be the best option.

#2 – Will the operation resolve my problem?(Efficacy)

 Is the success rate of this operation, when performed minimally invasively, as good as when performed with conventional techniques?  If the surgeon will ultimately have to perform conventional surgery and risk further complications from general anesthesia, blood transfusions, etc. then perhaps performing conventional surgery would be best.

#3 – How debilitated will I be afterward? (Recovery)

 Does the minimally invasive surgery offer a recovery advantage over conventional surgery?  While most people who advocate minimally invasive techniques point to this as a major advantage, keep in mind it is third on the list of importance.  A recovery advantage means very little if the operation does not resolve the problem or may increase the risk of death.

#4 – What will I look like afterwards? (Cosmesis)

 Finally, with the minimally invasive option offer me a better cosmetic result?  Cosmesis is another huge selling point for minimally invasive surgery and can indeed offer improved cosmetic results over conventional surgery, but one must appropriately prioritize this benefit in light of the others above.

If the answers to all of these questions is yes, then minimally invasive surgery may be an appropriate option for you!  If any of the answers are no, then an in depth discussion with your physician may determine if the benefits outweigh the risks in proceeding.

 

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