open-heart surgery at ssm health st. louis


A small incision is made between the ribs and equipment is placed to stabilize the heart. The blocked coronary artery is then bypassed with a grafted replacement vessel.


The smaller incision results in less scarring and a faster recovery and return to normal activities.


SSM Health Heart & Vascular Care performs minimally invasive coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) -- more commonly known as open heart bypass surgery -- through a small 3-inch incision between the ribs, rather than the traditional 8-inch incision down the breast bone. Instead of cutting bones, he enters through the ribs on the left side of the chest under the breast.

This bypass surgery procedure is performed while the heart is beating so there is no need for a heart-lung machine. This technique is called off-pump or “beating heart” surgery.

Just as with the traditional open heart valve surgery, healthy vessels are taken from elsewhere in the body. They are then grafted in place, which re-routes blood around narrowed or blocked coronary arteries.


The advantages of this off-pump bypass procedure coupled with the small incision of minimally invasive surgery add up to a much better experience, highlighted by:

  • Shorter hospital stay
  • Significantly faster return to daily living (patients can go back to work in two weeks versus three months)
  • Reduced risk of infection; no risk of sternal (breast bone) wound infection
  • Smaller incision and less scarring
  • Reduced risk for depression
  • Fewer physical limitations
  • Fewer post-operative lung problems
  • Reduced risk for cognitive problems

Good candidates

Not everyone is a candidate for this minimally invasive heart bypass surgery. The procedure is most appropriate for individuals who have 1 - 3 vessels that need to be bypassed. Also, the added time needed to complete the procedure limits its use in emergency situations.

However, because the procedure is less invasive, it presents an option for some patients who may otherwise be considered too high-risk or compromised to undergo the traditional CABG surgery. These include older patients and those with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or COPD.

Contact us

If you’ve been diagnosed with a heart disease and are recommended for surgery, we encourage you to meet with one of our nationally recognized surgeons to learn about all your options–including this minimally invasive procedure.

To find out if minimally invasive surgery may be right for you