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Minimally Invasive Cardiac Surgery

Minimally invasive cardiac and vascular surgery is performed through small incisions that are much less traumatic to the body than traditional open heart surgery which requires opening the breastbone through the chest (sternotomy) and the support of a heart-lung machine.

During minimally invasive operations, surgeons trained in this advanced approach use instruments such as catheters, stents and lasers and computer-guided technology to correct heart and vascular conditions. Minimally invasive surgery can be a lifesaving option for high-risk patients considered inoperable due to age or concurrent medical conditions.

Cardiac and vascular surgeons and interventional cardiologists at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) Heart & Vascular Center have a history of innovation in minimally invasive surgery—refining and successfully performing advanced techniques, from the research phase to approved standards of care. In 1996, Lawrence Cohn, MD led a BWH team in New England’s first minimally invasive cardiac surgery, replacing the aortic valve of a 71-year-old man. Since then, BWH cardiovascular specialists have performed thousands of minimally invasive surgeries and procedures with demonstrated outcomes equal to or better than conventional open heart surgery.

With 47,000 outpatient visits each year, the Heart & Vascular Center is one of the largest in the United States, treating over 7,000 inpatients and performing more than 8,000 procedures annually at our state-of-the-art Shapiro Cardiovascular Center.

Learn more about minimally invasive surgery at BWH.

Minimally Invasive Cardiac Surgery

Minimally Invasive Heart and Vascular Surgery and Procedures

Our surgeons and interventional cardiologists are highly experienced in many types of minimally invasive procedures including:

Aortic Valve Repair and Replacement

Aortic valve surgery repairs damaged valves by tightening or loosening aortic valve leaflets, located between the left ventricle and the aorta. Replacement surgery removes a faulty valve and substitutes an artificial valve. Percutaneous valve repair or replacement threads a catheter up to the heart through a blood vessel in the groin. Learn more about aortic valve repair and replacement.

Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG surgery)

CABG restores blood flow in the coronary arteries which have become blocked because of coronary artery disease. Surgery involves removing a healthy blood vessel or graft from one area of the body and using it to bypass the blocked coronary artery. Learn more about coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG).

Mitral Valve Repair and Replacement

Mitral valve surgery repairs damaged valves by tightening or loosening mitral valve leaflets, located between the left atrium and the left ventricle. Replacement surgery removes a faulty valve and substitutes an artificial valve. Percutaneous valve repair or replacement threads a catheter up to the heart through a blood vessel in the leg. Learn more about mitral valve repair and replacement surgery.

Why Have a Minimally Invasive Surgery or Procedure?

Minimally invasive heart and vascular surgery offers many benefits to appropriate patients:

  • Less trauma and pain
  • Faster return to normal activities
  • Shorter hospital stay, often reduced by as much as 50 percent over open heart procedures
  • Smaller incisions, resulting in less scarring
  • Minimal blood loss and less need for blood transfusion

Read Mending Broken Hearts in Brigham and Women’s magazine to learn more about minimally invasive innovations.

What You Should Expect

The Heart & Vascular Center is located in the Shapiro Cardiovascular Center across the street from BWH’s main 75 Francis Street entrance. The Heart & Vascular Center brings together the full range of services in one location, fostering seamless and coordinated care for all cardiovascular patients.

Prior to surgery or a procedure, you will be scheduled for a visit to the Watkins Clinic in the Shapiro Cardiovascular Center for preoperative information and tests.

The day of surgery, your care will be provided by surgeons, anesthesiologists and nurses who specialize in minimally invasive surgery. The Heart & Vascular Center is home to one of the most advanced hybrid operating rooms in the country. After surgery, you will recover in the post-surgical care unit where you will receive comprehensive care by an experienced surgical and nursing staff.

During your surgery, family and friends can wait in the Shapiro Family Center where staff members will provide surgery updates.

Multidisciplinary Care

Patients benefit from the teamwork of cardiac surgeons, vascular and endovascular surgeons, medical cardiologists, interventional cardiologists, cardiovascular imaging experts and radiologists, and anesthesiologists—all experts in cardiovascular disease. They work alongside nurses, physician assistants, physical therapists, dietitians and social workers to achieve outstanding outcomes for our patients.


For over a century, a leader in patient care, medical education and research, with expertise in virtually every specialty of medicine and surgery.

About BWH