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A leader in minimally invasive heart surgery

Minimally Invasive Cardiac Surgery

At Gundersen Health System, we are using an innovative technique called minimally invasive cardiac surgery (MICS) to perform heart bypass (coronary artery bypass grafting or CABG) and heart valve repair through a very small incision between the ribs.

The biggest difference with this new approach is the way the surgeon accesses the heart. With traditional open heart surgery, the surgeon makes a long cut vertically through the breast bone to open the chest and access the heart. The result is a long, zipper-like scar. Not so with MICS.

Benefits of MICS

The minimally invasive approach requires just a small three- to four-inch incision between the ribs. Because the surgeon does not have to open the chest or cut through bone, there are many benefits to MICS compared to the traditional open heart surgery, such as:

  • Less pain and less need for pain medication
  • Less blood loss, reducing the need for blood transfusions in most cases
  • Lower risk of infection
  • Shorter hospital stay—one and a half fewer days on average
  • Faster, easier recovery—up and walking within 24 hours and recovery in two to six weeks
  • Minimal scarring and better cosmetic result
  • Cardiac rehab can start sooner
  • Fewer restrictions related to driving, bending, lifting and returning to work
  • Restrictions are lifted sooner—usually two to four weeks

Why choose Gundersen for MICS?

You may be thinking La Crosse, Wis. is an unlikely place to travel to if you need heart surgery. But patients have travelled to Gundersen from eight states and from as far away as Colombia, South America, for the opportunity to have their heart surgery performed using minimally invasive heart techniques.

It's because of the skills and experience of Gundersen heart surgeon Prem Rabindranauth, MD, FACS. He was among the first to use MICS for heart bypass surgery routinely and is among only a handful of surgeons in the world to use MICS on multiple vessels (up to a quadruple bypass) and to do bypass during the same MICS procedure as a valve repair or angioplasty and stenting. And then there's Gundersen's award-winning reputation.

On a side note, La Crosse sits nestled between the Mississippi river and towering bluffs so there's hardly a more beautiful place to spend time recovering from surgery.

Learn more on our It's Personal MICS podcast

Is MICS right for you?

While there are advantages to minimally invasive surgery, it is not right for every patient. On the flip-side, there are patients who are candidates for MICS who may have been turned down for traditional surgery. Because surgery and recovery from MICS is less stressful on the body, these patients might now be candidates for surgery.

Frequently asked questions

What is MICS-CABG?
MICS-CABG (pronounced like "mix cabbage") is an acronym for minimally invasive cardiac surgery-coronary artery bypass grafting. This is a minimally invasive surgical technique performed through a small incision between the ribs, in which a graft is placed to bypass a blocked heart artery.

What is the advantage of MICS over traditional open-heart surgery?
The biggest difference with the MICS technique is how the surgeon approaches the heart. With traditional heart bypass surgery, a long cut is made through the breast bone to open the chest. With the MICS-CABG procedure the surgeon uses a much smaller incision between the ribs. Because it isn't necessary to "crack open" the chest or cut through bone, MICS results in less pain, blood loss, risk for infection and scarring.

How long can I expect my recovery to take?
Recovery is unique to each patient based on age, overall health and condition before surgery. But compared to open heart surgery, most patients who have MICS experience shorter hospital stays and faster recovery, and are able to start cardiac rehab sooner. Restrictions are lifted sooner with most patients back to full speed in two to four weeks compared to the six to eight weeks with traditional surgery.

Will you need to stop my heart for the operation?
No. MICS is an "off-pump" operation meaning it's performed on a beating heart. There's usually no need to be on a heart-lung bypass machine. The support of a pump may be required in rare cases when the heart is weak, but the operation is still performed on the beating heart.

I have other health issues. Is MICS CABG an option for me?
Possibly. Because MICS has a lower risk for infections and blood loss, it's often a better option, especially for patients who have health issues such as diabetes or asthma. Your surgeon and cardiologist will determine if you're a candidate for MICS.

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