The benefits of minimally invasive keyhole heart surgery

This article discusses the benefits of minimally invasive keyhole heart surgery and will be of interest to anyone requiring heart surgery who would like to know what their alternative treatment options are.



Being informed that you require heart surgery can create considerable anxiety. On the one hand, there is the fear that without intervention your health will be seriously compromised, yet the alternative is a major procedure with inherent risks attached. Fortunately, heart surgery has advanced enormously since it was first performed in the early 1950s and patients can now expect to feel better and live for longer following their operation with minimal risk.

In recent years, further advances in heart surgery have occurred that can reduce complications and enhance patient recovery. There is compelling evidence that these newer techniques offer real advantages for patients when experienced surgeons perform them. Unfortunately, many of these advances have not been widely employed to date in the United Kingdom.

The traditional heart surgery procedure

Open heart surgery is typically done through a vertical cut placed over the middle of the chest, including full division of the breastbone.

While most patients tolerate this well, it can take around 12 weeks or more before the wound is completely healed. This can seriously delay a return to normal activities.

These days, it is often possible to avoid such invasive options and, depending upon the specific case, certain procedures may be appropriate for keyhole surgery.

Keyhole heart surgery

Other surgical specialties have embraced keyhole therapies with great success. A good example is gall bladder surgery, where patients are now offered day case procedures when previously they were in hospital for up to 10 days. Keyhole approaches during heart surgery can produce equally dramatic improvements for patients, as well as offering considerable cosmetic benefits.

A much smaller wound means less surrounding tissue damage, often without any broken bone, which in turn can lead to faster recovery, sometimes in just 10 days. In this situation, patients will often spend less time in hospital, and can return to their normal activities more quickly. In addition, the keyhole surgery option results in significantly less scarring for a better cosmetic outcome.

Keyhole techniques can also create benefits for healthcare in general by reducing the burden of supportive treatment required following heart surgery.

How is keyhole heart surgery performed?

The minimally invasive surgery is performed using the most up-to-date and sophisticated technology currently available. This allows the surgeon to carry out the procedure remotely using small surgical instruments. He/she monitors every move on a video screen, as images are broadcast to the screen from a tiny digital camera inserted through the side of the chest. The surgeon also has at his disposal a robot capable of manoeuvering the camera and holding it perfectly still.

What are the risks of keyhole heart surgery?

The possible complications for keyhole surgery are the same as for open chest surgery. Results from Europe and the USA, where thousands of these procedures have taken place, indicate that the outcomes from minimally invasive surgery in experienced hands are as effective as traditional approaches through the breastbone (sternum), with the added benefits of more rapid recovery, and improved cosmetic appearance.

Is keyhole heart surgery right for me?

You may be suitable for keyhole surgery if you have any of the following conditions:

● Disease of the heart valves.
● Disease of the coronary arteries.
● Heart rhythm abnormalities such as atrial fibrillation.
● A hole in the heart (atrial septal defect).
● You have previously undergone open heart surgery through a sternotomy where a keyhole procedure may now be safer than a repeat sternotomy.
● You would like a better and more appealing cosmetic result.

The role of The Keyhole Heart Clinic

Keyhole cardiac surgery is still a relatively new procedure in the UK and finding an experienced surgeon is difficult. Mr Birdi is co-founder of The Keyhole Heart Clinic, which has been established to facilitate access for patients to this experience. ‘The mission of the clinic is to offer minimally invasive procedures to a wider population of patients by experienced clinicians, who can truly deliver the benefits of these highly valuable and effective therapies’, says Inderpaul.

How can I get further information?

Keyhole cardiac surgery is still a relatively new procedure in the United Kingdom. To understand more about keyhole heart surgery and your suitability for this procedure, you should talk to your GP or cardiologist. Further information can be found at

For a video of Mr Inderpaul Birdi explaining keyhole surgery please click here.

For further information on the author of this article, Consultant Cardiac Surgeon, Mr Inderpaul Birdi, please click here.
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