Despite early enthusiasm, minimally invasive cardiac surgery has had a low uptake compared with novel techniques in interventional cardiology. Steep learning curves from high-volume centres have deterred smaller units from engaging, even though low-volume centres undertake a large proportion of surgical interventions worldwide. We sought to identify the safety and experience of learning minimally invasive cardiac surgery after undertaking a structured fellowship at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, a low-volume centre.
A retrospective analysis of outcomes for all consecutive minimally invasive cardiac surgery procedures performed via a right mini-thoracotomy at our institution between 2007 and 2017 was undertaken. Clinical outcomes included death, conversion to sternotomy, stroke, renal failure and other organ support. Cardiopulmonary bypass, aortic cross-clamp times and learning cumulative sum sequential probability method curves were also assessed to determine how safely the procedure was adopted.
A total of 316 patients were operated on for mitral, tricuspid, atrial fibrillation, septal defects or other conditions. The mean logistic European System for Cardiac Operative Risk Evaluation score was 7.0 (± 8.5). Conversion to sternotomy occurred in 12 patients (3.8%) and in-hospital mortality was 7 (2.2%). None of the converted patients died. The learning curves showed an accelerated process of adoption, similar to reference figures from a high-volume German centre.
It is possible for low-volume cardiac surgical centres to undertake minimally invasive surgical programmes with good outcomes and short learning curves. Despite technical complexities, with a team approach, the learning curve can be navigated safely.