Shrinking heart surgery: The evolution of cardiovascular therapies

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The image of heart surgery used to be, for most, open heart – with a large incision straight down the middle of the chest and a long, difficult recovery. This daunting procedure was typically held out as a last resort. But today, there are multiple options when it comes to surgery, many of which result in less pain and shorter recovery times.

Certainly, open-heart surgery is still necessary. But there’s also a wide spectrum that includes catheters threaded through the top of the leg or through a chest artery or small incisions between the ribs or through the armpit. Typically the least invasive option is recommended so patients can spend less time healing and more time being well.

Robert Riley, MD, a cardiothoracic surgeon and cardiovascular medical director with HonorHealth, says, "We now have more options that allow people to live longer and feel better. Some people literally take no more than Tylenol for the pain and are back to their normal routine relatively quickly. One thing I would tell you is that it’s likely not as bad as your imagination makes it out to be."