Less Pain, Quicker Recovery for Heart Surgery

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Imagine having open-heart surgery and being back on your feet within days. It’s possible with a new procedure. Only five hospitals in the country have surgeons trained to do it. A Rockford hospital is one of them.

No pain, no restrictions, just a small scar under his left breast. That's all Tom Hunt has to remind him of his open-heart surgery.

"I never took a pain pill. There was hardly any pain at all," says Hunt.

It's a new procedure called ThoraCab. Only a handful of surgeons across the world are trained to do it. Dr. Peter Marks and Dr. David Cheng of Rockford Memorial Hospital are two of them.

“We perform the actual grafting the same way. We use our hands. We use instruments. We do it under direct visual. It's only the approach that's different," says Dr. Cheng.

A three to four inch incision is made under the left breast and the ribs are spread. Patients are not hooked up to heart-lung machines. The heart beats during the entire surgery.

"Technically it is more difficult than a larger incision," says Dr. Marks.

ThoraCab surgeries also last about six hours, compared to the three hours a standard bypass surgery takes:

"The increased investment of time and energy by us in the operating room is well rewarded by the patient after and how well they recover," says Dr. Cheng.

Patients walk out of the hospital in three to four days. The recovery process is much faster as well. Tom was playing golf within two weeks.

"There were no restrictions on what I could do as long as I felt my body could do it," says Hunt.

Dr. Cheng says people shouldn't have to go to Chicago to get good medicine. As far as he's concerned, they can come to Rockford.

The doctors say the cost of ThoroCab is normally less than the traditional bypass surgery because hospital stays are shorter and heart-lung machines are not used in the operating room.