A Less Invasive Approach to Heart Surgery


A less invasive approach to heart surgery

Published: Monday, April 04, 2011, 5:00 AM     Updated: Monday, April 04, 2011, 5:03 AM
Andrea Boyarsky
Staten island Advance/Jan Somma-Hammel
Former patient Barbara Cox of Great Kills underwent heart surgery last year and is happy and healthy thanks to Dr. Joseph McGinn.
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. — Following surgery 18 months ago, Barbara Cox of Great Kills started feeling dizzy and nervous. Her skin was clammy and her jaw felt tight. She experienced shortness of breath and tightness in her chest.

Ms. Cox was brought to the emergency room where the 37-year-old woman was experiencing a massive heart attack and needed quadruple bypass surgery.

At The Heart Institute at Staten Island University Hospital’s Ocean Breeze campus, Ms. Cox underwent the minimally invasive cardiac surgery/coronary artery bypass grafting (MICS CABG) procedure. The procedure takes a less invasive approach than traditional bypass surgery and seemed like the right option for the young mother.

“They didn’t have to break my sternum and the scar is very minimal,” Ms. Cox said during a recent press conference centered around the technique. “And with this procedure, I didn’t have to be as concerned with infection.”

The MICS CABG was pioneered and developed by Dr. Joseph McGinn, medical director at The Heart Institute where the first procedure was performed in January 2005. Since then, more than 600 such procedures have been performed there and another 1,000-plus done across the country.

Late last month, about 40 cardiothoracic surgeons and others in the cardiac field traveled to Staten Island to attend the Advanced Revascularization Techniques and Technology program held at the Regina M. McGinn, M.D. Education Center at SIUH. The conference was hosted by Medtronic, which in collaboration with Dr. McGinn, developed a device that is used during every MICS procedure.

During the two-day course, physicians from around the world learned the MICS CABG technique and discussed how to improve patient outcomes, compared methods of treatment and looked to the future of their profession.

“The goal is to get the surgery out to as many physicians as possible and get to the patients who need it,” Dr. McGinn said, noting that it was the first time it was being taught to a large audience. So far, close to 300 doctors have been trained in the procedure.

Dr. McGinn explained that there are several benefits to the MICS CABG over traditional open heart surgery, also referred to as the “zipper” for the scar it leaves. A main one is that the structural integrity of the body is maintained and no ribs have to be broken. Instead, the procedure is performed through three small incisions.

This leads to a short recovery time. With the zipper it’s usually several months. After undergoing the MICS CABG, it’s possible for patients to return to work within two weeks.

According to Dr. McGinn, there is a “virtually zero” infection rate with the procedure. This can be beneficial for those who have other vascular problems or have two or more coexisting medical conditions in addition to heart disease.

The procedure may also be better for elderly patients who may not be able to handle a more invasive procedure.

“Patients can return to a normal life much more quicker,” said Dr. Mark Jarrett, SIUH’s chief medical officer. “It’s really about them, not us.”

Anna Cotto of New Springville has also benefited from the MICS CABG technique. While exercising last year, she felt out of breath, her throat tightened and she thought her tongue was swelling. Ms. Cotto visited the emergency room, where doctors discovered a blockage in two of her arteries.

Having seen her brother undergo the “zipper,” Ms. Cotto, who previously suffered a blocked artery, wasn’t sure what to do. But when she heard of Dr. McGinn’s technique, she found her answer.

“I thought it was great,” the 56-year-old said. “When my brother had open heart surgery, it took a while for him to recover and then there was the scar — as a woman, you don’t want that.”

Today, she can lift weights and walk again without getting out of breath. The scars are barely visible and some people don’t believe she had bypass surgery since you can’t see them.

Ms. Cox is also living her life and no longer sweats the small things.

“ I feel wonderful,” she said. “Even though I never took my life for granted before, I definitely take each day as a miracle.”

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