Operative techniques for improving surgical exposure in basic cardiac surgery

Dawn S. Hui, Jason M. Lizalek, Vikram S. Chawa, Richard Lee


Operative exposure is key to ensuring surgical efficiency and patient safety in cardiac surgery. As the population ages and the prevalence of obesity increases, cardiac surgeons will be challenged to consider obese patient physiology and body habitus, surgical exposure and sternotomy closure techniques, and postoperative medical management to ensure optimal outcomes. In this article, we describe techniques to improve operative exposure in both obese and non-obese patients undergoing basic cardiac surgery and highlight the roles of surgical team members to ensure patient safety and provide optimal anesthetic management. We describe pre-operative techniques regarding incision-site marking and alternative positioning techniques on the operating table to improve visualization and decrease risk of upper extremity injury. We summarized the roles of surgical team members regarding patient positioning, especially in those that are obese, and the challenges associated for anesthesia staff pre- and intraoperatively. Procedural techniques regarding sternotomy management and closure, cannulation, internal mammary harvest, and mitral valve exposure are discussed. Cardiac surgical teams must consider the risks associated with the obese patient population undergoing cardiac surgery procedures and employ techniques pre-, intra-, and postoperatively in a multidisciplinary fashion. Safe and efficacious techniques are paramount to optimal patient outcomes.