Are There Less Invasive Options for Heart Surgery Than Open Heart?

​Complex heart conditions have traditionally been treated with surgeries that require large incisions in the chest and opening "cracking" the rib cage. Fortunately for local heart patients, the last three years have seen an increase in the availability of less-invasive methods.

As a result, more than 80 percent of heart valve patients can now avoid traditional "open heart" surgery without traveling outside the Tristate. They also recover faster and with less pain.

Some of the most advanced procedures are performed locally only by our cardiothoracic (CT) surgeons. The program offers specialty care for patients with a wide variety of disorders and diseases of the heart valves, great arteries, coronary arteries, cardiac tumors and lung tumors.

"People don't have to leave Cincinnati to get world-class cardiac surgical care," says Dr. Geoffrey Answini, a CT surgeon who specializes in minimally invasive procedures. "Through the Lindner Research Center we have access to all the latest and greatest technologies. There's really nothing to be gained by going elsewhere, because there's nothing that's not available right here in Cincinnati."

Dr. Answini was one of the first local physicians to treat aortic aneurysms (life-threatening bulges in the main artery of the human body) with a technique called endovascular repair. This less-invasive procedure repairs the aorta through small incisions in the groin and arm.

"Today we do over 90 percent of our aneurysm repairs endovascularly. Patients can recover a lot faster and get back to their lives at a much quicker rate," Dr. Answini says.

A more recent addition is the minimally-invasive program for mitral valve repair, which was launched by Dr. Mario Castillo Sang in late November of 2015.

"Mitral valve disease isn't as common as coronary disease, but it's one of the two most common valve problems and it's undertreated and under-diagnosed," Dr. Castillo Sang says. "If you have a murmur associated with significant abnormal function of the mitral, tricuspid or aortic valves, we can treat them in a minimally-invasive way."

In less than three years, Dr. Castillo Sang's team has made mitral valve operations possible for 83 percent of all patients. The largest incision used in the procedure is just an inch and a half long.

"When you see the patient in clinic three weeks after the operation, they are pretty much back to driving, back to their normal activity, and many of them go back to work. That's a stark difference from what we traditionally call open-heart surgery," Castillo Sang says.

The CT surgery team has continued to help develop cutting-edge treatments and innovative therapies. In recent years, the Christ Hospital team helped develop a new left ventricular assist devices (LVAD) program to treat patients with heart failure.

"The outcomes from these devices are so good now that Medicare and the Center for Medical Services now recognizes them as a primary therapy," Dr. Answini says.

In addition, Dr. Answini is leading efforts to develop treatments for aneurysms involving areas of the aorta that traditionally have required extensive open-surgery to repair. The Christ Hospital is currently one of only four sites in the world that have access to technology that can repair the aorta from the chest to the abdomen without open surgery.

Dr. Castillo Sang is also our principle investigator for two leading- edge clinical research trials that offer catheter-based treatment for mitral valve repair or replacement without stopping the heart or circulating the patient's blood through a "heart-lung bypass" machine.  

Click to learn more about Greater Cincinnati's Heart Hospital, or to schedule an initial consultation or second opinion appointment, call 513-206-1170.