Background: The aim of this study was to evaluate pain and quality of life after minimally invasive cardiac operations in comparison with conventional cardiac operations.
Methods: From October 1996 to May 1997 a total of 338 patients were interviewed daily using standard scoring systems (myocardial revascularization, n = 160; mitral valve reconstruction or replacement, n = 58; aortic valve replacement, n = 120).
Results: Regarding ventricular function and intensive care and hospital stay, there were no significant differences between groups. Pain decreased until the seventh postoperative day in all patients. Patients with a lateral minithoracotomy (minimally invasive revascularization and mitral valve operations) had lower pain levels from the third postoperative day onward. There were no differences in quality of life, postoperative wound healing, or stability of the bony thorax.
Conclusions: In cardiac operations overall pain levels are relatively low. After minimally invasive procedures with lateral minithoracotomy, earlier mobilization is possible because of a better stability of the bony thorax, resulting in lower pain levels.