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VCU Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Department of Surgery, Virginia Commonwealth University VCU Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery VCU Medical Center VCU

VCU Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery

Minimally Invasive Valve Surgery Clinic

The Minimally Invasive Valve Surgery Clinic is held every Wednesday and Friday from 8:00am - 12Noon. To schedule an appointment please call (804)-828-4663 or (804)-828-4620.
For our patients coming from outside the Richmond area please visit our "Out of Town Patients" page for information on travel and places to stay.


Minimal incision valve surgery does not require a large incision or cutting through the entire breastbone. The surgeon gains access to the heart through one to three smaller, less visible incisions (sometimes called “ports”) that can be made between the ribs or a smaller breastbone incision, as well as one small incision in the groin.

The diseased valve can be repaired or replaced through one or more of the ports between the ribs, with the surgeon looking at the heart directly through the incision or through a small tube-shaped camera.

Benefits of Minimally Invasive Surgical Techniques

The benefits of minimally invasive and robotic heart surgery techniques include:

  • Faster Recovery Times
  • Less trauma to the sternum which is particularly beneficial to patients using walkers and canes.
  • Improved post-operative rehabilitation because patients are able to use arms to push off.
  • Small incisions
  • Small scars

Other possible benefits may include:

  • Shorter hospital stay after surgery: The average stay is 3 to 5 days after minimally invasive surgery, while the average stay after traditional heart surgery is 7 to 10 days
  • Low risk of infection
  • Low risk of bleeding and blood transfusion 
  • Faster return to normal activities/work: The average recovery time after minimally invasive surgery is 1 to 4 weeks, while the average recovery time after traditional heart surgery is 6 to 8 weeks.
  • Improved quality of life
  • Greatly improved cosmetic results

Important Note: Not everyone is a candidate for these surgical techniques. Your surgeon will review the results of your diagnostic tests before your scheduled procedure to determine if you are a candidate for minimally invasive surgery. The surgical team will carefully compare the advantages and disadvantages of minimally invasive techniques versus traditional surgery techniques.


Types of Minimally Invasive Valve Surgeries
Surgical Valve Repair

When possible, it is often preferable to surgically repair the patient’s valve rather than to replace it with a prosthetic device. Valve repair usually involves the surgeon modifying the tissue or underlying structures of the mitral or tricuspid valve and implanting an annuloplasty ring or band.  Aortic valves are rarely repaired.

Surgical Valve Replacement

If the diseased native heart valve cannot be repaired, the surgeon may choose to replace it. The first step is to remove the diseased valve and then implant a prosthetic valve in its place. Prosthetic valves used to replace the heart’s natural valves come in different sizes to fit the patient and are made from a variety of materials.

There are two main types of prosthetic heart valves:

  • Tissue (bioprosthetic) valves - made primarily from animal tissue [i.e., bovine pericardium (the sac surrounding a cow’s heart), a pig’s aortic (porcine) valve or human valves from cadavers]  
  • Mechanical valves – created from synthetic (man-made) materials
 Who Is a Candidate for Minimally Invasive Valve Surgery?

Your surgeon will review the results of your diagnostic tests before your scheduled surgery to determine if you are a candidate for a minimally invasive surgery technique. The surgical team will carefully compare the advantages and disadvantages of these techniques with those of traditional surgery.

The type of treatment recommended for your condition depends on several factors, including the type and severity of heart disease, age, medical history and lifestyle.

How Will I Feel After Surgery?

You may feel some discomfort at the incision site after surgery. You can take medications to help relieve this discomfort. Ask your doctor which medication you should take for pain relief. If you have discomfort in your chest that is similar to the symptoms you had before your surgery, call your doctor.


Patients who have minimally invasive surgery may be able to go home 2 to 5 days after surgery. Your healthcare team will follow your progress and help you recover as quickly as possible.
Your healthcare team will provide specific instructions for your recovery and return to work, including guidelines for activity, driving, incision care and diet.

Recovery after minimally invasive heart surgery

In general, you may be able to return to work (if you have a sedentary job), resume driving and participate in most non-strenuous activities within 1 to 4 weeks after traditional minimally invasive heart surgery. You can resume heavy lifting and other more strenuous activities within 5 to 8 weeks after surgery. Your healthcare team will provide specific guidelines based on your rate of recovery.

Recovery for all patients after heart surgery

To maintain your cardiovascular health after surgery, we strongly encourage you to make lifestyle changes and take your medications as prescribed. Heart-healthy lifestyle changes that are important to your recovery include:

  • Quitting smoking
  • Treating high cholesterol
  • Managing high blood pressure and diabetes
  • Exercising regularly
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Eating a heart-healthy diet
  • Participating in a cardiac rehabilitation program, as recommended
  • Following up with your doctor for regular visits
Contact Us for More Information