Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center - Houston, Texas

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Houston VA Hospital Offering Less Invasive Options

April 11, 2006

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Veteran Ed Greenhaw is examined by Faisal Bakaeen, M.D., a cardiothoracic staff physician at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center during a follow-up appointment. Greenhaw recently underwent minimally invasive heart surgery to replace one of his heart valves. The key benefit of this type of surgery is a smaller incision resulting in a smaller scar. In addition, other possible benefits include reduced risk of infection, less blood loss, less post-operative pain and trauma, decreased length of stay in hospital, and swifter recovery time.

PHOTOS BY: Bobbi Gruner, MEDVAMC Public Affairs Officer

 

HOUSTON – The Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center (MEDVAMC) is one of the few medical facilities in the country performing minimally invasive heart valve surgery. In this new procedure, surgery is performed with a limited split of the sternum through a small three inch incision providing a small but adequate access to the heart valves.

This new heart procedure is not as widely performed as the more traditional form of surgery, which requires the patient to undergo a complete sternotomy in order to access the heart. A sternotomy is a surgical procedure in which a seven to nine inch vertical line incision splits the breast bone completely down its midline.

The aortic valve, located on the left side of the heart, is the opening through which blood is ejected to the rest of the body. When the valve does not work properly, either because of a birth defect or from wear associated with aging, it becomes too narrow or fails to close completely. Either condition usually causes extraordinary stress on the heart and can cause fluid retention and eventually severe heart failure.

The key benefit of the minimally invasive valve surgery is a smaller incision resulting in a smaller scar. In addition, other possible benefits include reduced risk of infection, less blood loss, less post-operative pain and trauma, decreased length of stay in hospital, and swifter recovery time.

“While the success rate of the traditional surgery is very high, the recovery process can be a painful experience for the patient,” said Faisal Bakaeen, M.D., MEDVAMC cardiothoracic staff physician. “By performing the less-invasive version of this surgery, the patient may enjoy a faster and less uncomfortable recovery.”

Minimally invasive surgery is gaining popularity at a rapid pace in the United States and around the world. Cardiac surgery is no exception; however, the pace of adoption of new surgical techniques has been limited by the inherent difficulties and safety issues unique to the cardiovascular system. 

“Our team of cardiothoracic surgeons at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center is excited about the introduction of this cutting edge procedure. However, I must emphasize that not all patients with valvular heart disease are candidates for minimally invasive valve surgery and that certain criteria need to be met in selecting suitable patients,” said Joseph Huh, M.D., MEDVAMC cardiothoracic staff physician.

People experiencing problems with their aortic valve may experience shortness of breath, dizziness, chest pain, loss of consciousness, or a combination of these symptoms. After surgery, patients usually can expect to return to healthy and more active lifestyle. Now that the procedure can be done with minimally invasive techniques, a patient’s quality of life immediately after surgery may also improve significantly.

“We strive to offer our veterans the latest and the best in the field of surgery,” said David Berger, M.D., MEDVAMC Operative Care Line executive. “Our cardiothoracic surgery service handles a high volume of patients and has been recognized for its excellent patient outcomes.”

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