Minimally invasive aortic valve replacement

What the Anesthesiologist Should Know before the Operative Procedure

Minimally invasive aortic valve replacement (MIAVR) can be performed as an elective or non-elective procedure. It represents an alternative approach to median sternotomy for surgical aortic valve replacement.

Signs and symptoms of aortic stenosis (AS):

  • - decreased exercise capacity

  • -angina

  • -syncope

  • -congestive heart failure

Signs and symptoms of aortic insufficiency (AI):

  • - decreased exercise capacity

  • - angina

  • - dyspnea / pulmonary edema

  • - tachycardia, water hammer pulse

Surgical approach:

  • - 6-8 cm right minithoracotomy in the second or third intercostal space (most commonly) (Figure 1)

  • - Cardiopulmonary bypass required

  • - Cannulation of the ascending aorta, cannulation via the femoral artery as an alternative option

  • - Aortic crossclamp and aortic cannulation is required for antegrade cardioplegia, direct cannulation of coronary ostia in case of AI

  • - Venous cannulation can be performed via the femoral vein or directly through the right atrium.

  • - Retrograde cardioplegia via coronary sinus catheter (percutaneously via jugular vein) or direct placement by the surgeon

  • - Surgical field flooded with CO2 to increase absorbtion rate of intravascularly introduced gas bubbles

  • - Right pleural chest tubes are placed at completion of surgical procedure

Figure 1.

Minimally invasive aortic valve replacement - intraoperative approach

1. What is the urgency of the surgery

Patients with symptomatic valvular disease from aortic stenosis and/or aortic insufficiency require aortic valve replacement.




Symptoms of heart failure, angina, or syncope indicate a higher level of urgency to undergo surgery.

Emergent surgery can be associated with other cardiac or vascular pathology requiring modification of the surgical technique or choice of a standard sternotomy approach:

  • Aortic stenosis (AS): Concomittant three vessel coronary artery disease or left main disease might require simultaneous CABG

  • Aortic Insufficiency (AI): In acute AI aortic dissection is common, possibly requiring repair via sternotomy

  • Aortic valve endocarditis requiring immediate valvular replacment

  • Emergent/urgent indication - heart failure, angina, or syncope

  • Elective - known AS or AI causes symptoms such as dyspnea or decreased exercise tolerance. First signs of left ventricular dysfunction on transthoracic echocardiography (TTE) are indication for elective AVR.

2. Preoperative evaluation

A thorough history and physical examination should be obtained with special emphasis on:

  • Coronary artery disease

  • Congestive heart failure

  • Cardiomyopathy

  • Cardiac dysrhythmia

  • Aortic aneurism

  • Aortic dissection, especially in acute AI

  • Presence of AI in cases of AS

  • Peripheral vascular disease

  • Cerebrovascular disease

  • Diabetes type I/II

  • Acute / chronic kidney disease

  • Previous cardiac surgery

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

  • Connective tissue disorder, e.g. Marfan's disease

  • History of rheumatic fever

Time for evaluation is dictated by level of urgency for the procedure. Delaying surgery may be indicated in an elective repair for:

  • Noninvasive revascularization of concomittant coronary artery disease - alternatively combined AVR/CABG procedure via sternotomy

  • Therapy of non-valvular causes of heart failure

  • Therapy of symptomatic arrhytmia

  • Therapy of severe dental decay prior to implantation of hardware

  • Treatment of poorly controlled diabetes

  • Treatment or newly diagnosed kidney disease

  • Treatment to enable optimization of respiratory function

  • Treatment of infection, e.g. urinary tract infection

3. What are the implications of co-existing disease on perioperative care?

a. Cardiovascular system

Coronary artery disease

  • Evaluation: History and physical exam, EKG, possibly Holter monitor, Echocardiography as indicated, stress testing as indicated

  • Goals of management: Medical optimization, e.g. with betablocker, statin and aspirin therapy, revascularization as indicated

Congestive heart failure

  • Evaluation: History and physical exam, EKG, Echocardiography as indicated, stress testing as indicated, TTE to rule out other reasons for heart failure (e.g. other valve disease)

  • Goals of management: Therapy of active CHF as indicated to achieve resolution of symptoms not thought to be secondary to aortic valvular disease


  • Evaluation: History and physical exam, EKG, possibly Holter monitor, transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) to rule out left atrial thrombus

  • Goals of management: Therapy of symptomatic arrhytmia as indicated, e.g. cardioversion for atrial fibrillation

c. Pulmonary

Pulmonary disease

  • Evaluation: History and physical exam, chest X-ray, pulmonary function tests (ABG, FEV1, FVC, DLCO) as indicated

  • Goals of management: Optimization of respiratory function, e.g. adding bronchodilator therapy in obstructive airway disease as determined by metacholine challenge, adding inhaled steroids to poorly controlled asthma, therapy of concomitant pulmonary infection

d. Renal-GI:

Acute and/or chronic kidney disease

  • Evaluation: History and physical exam, basic metabolic panel, creatinin clearance, further testing as indicated

  • Goals of management: Treatment of reversable causes of kidney disease, e.g. prerenal azothemia with hydration

Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)

  • Evaluation: History and physical exam, further testing as indicated, e.g. esophagogastroscopy

  • Goals of management: Treatment, e.g. with proton pump inhibitors

e. Neurologic:

Cerebrovascular disease

  • Evaluation: History and physical exam, further evaluation as indicated, e.g. ultrasound Doppler examination of the carotid arteries

  • Goals of management: Diagnosis and documentation of pre-existing neurologic deficits, therapy as indicated, e.g. carotid endarterectomy

Peripheral nerve injury

  • Evaluation: History and physical exam, further evaluation as indicated, e.g. nerve conduction studies

  • Goals of management: Diagnosis and documentation of pre-existing neurologic deficits, determination of optimal intraoperative positioning

Infectious diseases

  • Evaluation: History and physical examination, urinary analysis, screening for MRSA, further testing as indicated

  • Goals of management: Therapy of active infection, e.g. urinary tract infection with antibiotics, isolation of carriers of resistant organisms

f. Endocrine:

Diabetes mellitus

  • Evaluation: History and physical examination, review of records, distinction between type 1 and type 2 diabetes, laboratory as indicated, e.g. fasting glucose, hemoglobin A1C

  • Goals of management: Diabetic management to achieve adequate gycemic control, determination of optimal perioperative insulin regimen, determination of regimen for perioperative antidiabetic oral medications, if needed obtain endocrine consultation

g. Dental:

  • Evaluation: History and physical examination

  • Goals of management: Restoration or removal of decayed teeth prior to implantation of hardware

h. Are there medications commonly seen in patients undergoing this procedure and for which should there be greater concern?

Anticoagulant / anti platelet medications, e.g., aspirin, clopidogrel, coumadin

  • Evaluation: Review of records and indications

  • Goals of management:

  • Patients on aspirin: current guidelines advocate preoperative withdrawal of aspirin only in strictly elective patients without coronary syndromes with the expectation that blood transfusion will be reduced (IIa recommendation, level of evidence A). PUBMED:17462454

  • Patients on thienopyridines (such as clopidogrel): current guidelines consider it reasonable to discontinue thienopyridines 5 to 7 days prior to cardiac procedures to limit blood loss and transfusion (IIa recommendation, level for evidence B). PUBMED:17462454 Alternatively, patients can be transitioned to more short-acting

  • Patients on coumadin should be transitioned to perioperative i.v. heparin infusion

5. What laboratory tests should be obtained?

Complete blood count (CBC), PT/PTT, metabolic panel, Type and screen, other tests as indicated

Intraoperative Management: What are the options for anesthetic management and how to determine the best technique?

The standard anesthetic technique for this procedure is general anesthesia

a. Regional anesthesia -

Given the need for systemic anticoagulation during cardiopulmonary bypass, epidural anesthesia is not commonly employed


  • Advantage: Improved postoperative analgesia

  • Drawbacks: Higher risk for epidural hematoma in the setting of systemic anticoagualtion, possibly need for rescheduling of procedure if "bloody tap" obtained during placement of epidural catheter

Peripheral Nerve Block

  • Paravertebral blocks/catheters are a possible option, but there generally is little experience employing this technique in this setting. However, paravertebral nerve blocks might pose less risk for epidural hematoma in the setting of systemic anticoagulation

  • Intercostal nerve blocks or single shot paravertebral nerve blocks offer short term analgesia


  1. ASA standard monitors (electrocardiogram, blood pressure, pulse oximetry, capnography, temperature)

  2. Radial arterial line - check bilateral upper extremity NIBP prior to placement to evaluate for arterial stenosis leading to falsely low BP measurement

  3. CVP

  4. TEE

    • Allows placement of retrograde cardioplegia cannula under direct vision by the anesthesiologist or surgeon

    • Allows placement of femoral venous drainage cannula under direct vision

    • Allows evaluation of aorta for atheromatous disease prior to placement of aortic crossclamp

    • Allows evaluation of valvular status pre and post replacement of aortic valve

    • Allows evaluation of prosthetic valve in situ

    • Allows evaluation of myocardial function pre and post repair

  5. Optional PAC - weigh risk of inducing arrhythmia in setting of AS against value of monitoring RVSP, LVEDP

  6. Optional BIS

  7. Optional cerebral pulse oximetry

  8. Urine output


  • Cardiac complications: new onset atrial fibrillation, conduction delays requiring permanent pacemaker, need for conversion to open procedure or reoperation

  • Pulmonary: aspiration pneumonia, lung hernia

  • Neurologic: stroke, coma, delirium, cognitive dysfunction

  • Renal: acute kidney injury

  • Infectious: wound infection, mediastinitis

  • Hematologic: bleeding, complications from transfusion, e.g. TRALI

c. Postoperative management

  1. Analgesic modalities: IV opioids initially, conversion to oral regimen as soon as possible - usually after 12 hours. Adjunct analgesics: Acetaminophen, NSAIDs if no contraindication

  2. Disposition: ICU

  3. Postoperative concerns include: Arrhytmia, paravalvular leak, bleeding, cardiac tamponade, myocardial ischemia, stroke, infection

What's the Evidence?

Zoghbi, WA, Enriquez-Sarano, M. "Recommendations for evaluation of the severity of native valvular regurgitation with two-dimensional and Doppler echocardiography". J Am Soc Echocardiogr. vol. 16. 2003 Jul. pp. 777-802.

Bagur, R, Rodés-Cabau, J. "Appropriate assessment of operative risk in patients with severe symptomatic aortic stenosis: importance for patient selection in the era of transcatheter aortic valve implantation". Ann Thorac Surg. vol. 92. 2011 Sep. pp. 1157-8.

Baumgartner, H, Hung, J. "Echocardiographic assessment of valve stenosis: EAE/ASE recommendations for clinical practice". J Am Soc Echocardiogr. vol. 22. 2009 Jan. pp. 1-23.

Ferraris, VA, Ferraris, SP, Saha, SP. "Perioperative blood transfusion and blood conservation in cardiac surgery: the Society of Thoracic Surgeons and The Society of Cardiovascular Anesthesiologists clinical practice guideline". Ann Thorac Surg. vol. 83. 2007 May. pp. S27-86.

Glower, DD, Lee, T, Desai, B. "Aortic Valve Replacement Through Right Minithoracotomy in 306 Consecutive Patients".

Sharony, R, Grossi, EA. "Minimally Invasive Aortic Valve Surgery in the Elderly: A Case-Control Study". Circulation,. vol. Sep 9. 2003. pp. II43-7.

Plass, A, Scheffel, H. "Aortic Valve Replacement Through a Minimally Invasive Approach: Preoperative Planning, Surgical Technique, and Outcome". Ann Thorac Surg,. vol. 88. 2009. pp. 1851-6.

Bonow, RO, Carabello, BA. "2008 Focused update incorporated into the ACC/AHA 2006 guidelines for the management of patients with valvular heart disease: a report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Practice Guidelines: Endorsed by the Society of Cardiovascular Anesthesiologists, Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions, and Society of Thoracic Surgeons". Circulation. vol. 118. 2008; Oct 7. pp. e523-661.

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