At the UCLA Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, surgeons are operating on the hearts of adults and children through tiny openings in the chest, eliminating the need for sternotomy--a large incision through the breastbone (sternum). This method of surgery, called minimally invasive cardiac surgery, offers many benefits compared to traditional, open-chest procedures. Surgeons use sophisticated thin instruments, miniature cameras, robotic devices, and hybrid techniques with coronary stenting to perform the operations.
Minimally invasive heart surgery offers several advantages compared to open-chest procedures, including:
Little scarring. Instead of a long chest scar, only a few tiny scars or a short, 2- to 5-inch scar remains.
We're one of a handful of hospitals in the world that offers a wide range of minimally invasive procedures for heart conditions. Every member of our cardiac surgery team has specialized expertise in minimally invasive cardiac surgery. Some of the minimally invasive procedures regularly performed by UCLA Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery surgeons include the following:
It's not uncommon for our surgeons to correct more than one heart problem during a minimally invasive procedure. For example, a person who needs mitral valve repair and bypass surgery can have both problems treated during the same operation without opening the chest.
Learn more about minimally invasive procedures for children
Some minimally invasive heart surgeries performed at UCLA Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery are done with the help of a special robotic device, called the da Vinci Surgical System. The da Vinci robot is a highly sophisticated tool that enables the surgeon to perform the procedure with greater precision and control than is possible in traditional hands-on surgery. In robotically assisted surgeries, the chest cavity is accessed through dime-size "keyhole" incisions.Robotic cardiac surgery procedure. The surgeon is seated to the left at the da Vinci console, where he controls the system's robotic arms to perform the surgery. The robotic arms are shown at right, directly above the patient. The surgeon sits in a console equipped with controls that direct robotic arms to perform the surgery. The da Vinci's robotic arms are essentially an extension of the surgeon's hands. A tiny camera attached to a robotic arm gives the surgeon a very detailed, three-dimensional view of the operating space inside the chest. The robotic arms are very agile, providing the surgeon a greater range of motion than is possible with hand-manipulated moves in standard procedures.
Experience is important for all types of surgery, but the right experience is essential for minimally invasive and robotic surgery. There is a steep learning curve associated with minimally invasive surgery, because it's very different than operating through a large chest incision. Even otherwise highly experienced surgeons must devote dozens of hours to learning how to use the techniques and equipment for minimally invasive surgery. After learning how to use these tools, the surgeon must regularly perform minimally invasive surgery to truly master the approach. Volume counts. There is a great deal of difference between a surgeon who has performed 15 minimally invasive procedures versus a surgeon who has done hundreds of hundreds of cases.