Minimally Invasive Heart Surgery

Rapidly growing advances in minimally invasive heart surgery are leading to faster recoveries and a higher level of patient satisfaction. A minimally invasive procedure also means less visible scarring. Our expert heart surgeons are at the forefront of performing minimally invasive surgery for patients with heart conditions.


  • Minimally invasive heart surgery at Sentara Heart in Virginia

    Minimally invasive heart procedures use several small incisions to access the area rather than splitting the breastbone. The goal of minimally invasive surgery is to provide you with the most precise surgery possible while causing you less pain and scarring. The most common minimally invasive heart surgery is heart valve repair. Learn more about Heart Valve Disorders: Signs and Symptoms.

    At Sentara Heart Hospital, cardiothoracic surgeons use minimally invasive procedures for: 

    • Mitral valve repair or replacement
    • Aortic valve repair or replacement
    • Tricuspid valve repair or replacement
    • Atrial septal defect repairs
    • MAZE procedure for atrial fibrillation


  • Benefits

    At Sentara Heart, we believe that when it comes to surgery, less is more. We aim to use minimally invasive surgical procedures to treat your cardiac condition so you experience less pain and a quicker return to your daily activities.

    One of the greatest benefits of minimally invasive heart surgery is avoiding a sternotomy, a surgical procedure to open the chest. This often, though not always, results in using the heart-bypass machine to pump blood and oxygen for your heart during surgery.

  • Am I a candidate?

    Your surgeon will work with you to determine whether you are a candidate for minimally invasive heart surgery. It is important to discuss valve repair or replacement options before the procedure. In most cases, your surgeon can only be sure whether a damaged valve can be repaired or will have to be replaced after the surgery is already in progress. Learn more about the valve repair vs. valve replacement.

    Keep in mind that although we strive to provide you with the least invasive surgery possible, sometimes your surgeon may decide that a traditional, open approach is better. We always have your best outcome in mind.

  • What to expect

    Whenever possible, we perform minimally invasive heart surgery for most single-valve repair and replacement surgeries. Though each surgery is different, in general, this is what you can expect during a minimally invasive heart surgery. Your cardiac surgeon will:

    1. Make a small incision without splitting the breastbone
    2. Use a special camera, which provides a detailed view of the heart
    3. Perform the surgery using specialized surgical instruments that permit him/her to operate on the heart in a smaller space


  • Recovery

    Every patient is different, and every patient’s recovery will be different. However, here is what you can typically expect after minimally invasive heart surgery:

    • You will spend one day in the cardiac surgery intensive care unit.
    • The next day, if there are no complications, we will move you to a regular room.
    • You may begin some type of cardiac rehabilitation almost immediately. It may be as simple as swinging your legs over the side of the bed or walking a few steps. These are important milestones in regaining your independence after surgery.
    • We will discharge you within three to four days.
    • The nursing staff and your physician will give you guidelines on incision care, diet and activity levels.
    • You continue your rehabilitation as an outpatient.
    • You can look forward to resuming your regular routine within two weeks after surgery, including driving. If your work is sedentary (a lot of sitting down), you might return to work within two to four weeks. You may be ready for heavy lifting or more strenuous activities in six to eight weeks.
  • Sentara Heart: Expert heart physicians

    Our highly skilled team of physicians and health care providers have all been specially trained to perform minimally invasive heart surgery. While this is the same team that performs open heart surgeries, they have undergone additional training for minimally invasive surgery. 

    Quality heart care is a top priority at Sentara Heart Hospital, the only hospital in the region exclusively dedicated to cardiac care. That care shows: Sentara Heart Hospital consistently meets or surpasses the national averages of quality established for mortality.  For the 15th year, Sentara Heart Hospital has ranked among the nation’s best heart programs. Listed 44th in the U.S. News & World Report's 2014-15 Best Hospitals, it is the only hospital in Virginia to be ranked among the top 50 and was evaluated with close to 5,000 hospitals.

    If you need heart surgery, turn to the expert surgeons at Sentara Heart:

    • Cardiothoraic surgeons have performed the greatest number of minimally invasive heart surgeries in the region, with the top outcomes.
    • At Sentara Heart Hospital, the cardiothoracic surgery team performs over 1,300 heart surgeries a year.

    At Sentara Heart, our cardiac team is committed to patient education. We want you to be as informed and educated about your medical decisions as possible. For your convenience, we have compiled some frequently asked questions about minimally invasive heart surgery. As always, we are available to discuss your surgery with you in person and answer any questions you may have.