Heart disease is difficult to treat and difficult to cure. Over the last decade, dramatic new advances in technology have lessened the need for open heart and bypass surgery.
Dr. Stephen Colvin of New York University Medical Center has adapted minimally-invasive surgical techniques perfected elsewhere in the body to treat heart patients. "We can do most of these operations through small two or three inch (5-7 centimeter) incisions in the chest," he says. "So we can go between the ribs and spread the ribs slightly to access the heart, rather than opening up the entire chest widely and spreading the ribs apart, which can cause significant problems."
Colvin uses miniature cameras and high definition monitors to guide the tubes and surgical instruments. He says the procedure reduces pain and cuts recovery time in half. "When you do things less invasively through smaller openings, there appears to be a marked reduction in the risk of infection," he says.
That data has been clearly established over the last decade.
Colvin and his colleagues are experimenting with additional surgical techniques, including robotic surgery and the repair or replacement of a heart valve without making an incision in the heart or aorta.
Colvin says although drugs for treating heart disease have improved, he recommends adopting a heart-healthy lifestyle that includes a low fat diet, exercise and less stress.