Sac Surgeon First in U.S. To Perform Heart Surgery Without 'The Zipper'

Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Naruhito Watanabe is believed to be the first surgeon in the nation to repair an atrial septal defect via a mini-thoracotomy, with an incision just under the armpit. 

This minimally invasive approach reduces the healing time for the young patients and allows them to grow up without having embarrassing chest scars.

 The usual open-heart surgery creates an incision through the sternum – in the middle of the chest from just below the neck to just above the bellybutton. With this usual open-chest approach, in addition to creating a long chest scar, there are six weeks of post-operative restrictions to allow for the sternum to properly heal. 

Dr. Watanabe pioneered this new surgical technique because many children with congenital heart defects grow up to be self-conscious about the long scars created with traditional open-heart surgeries and because the six weeks of post-operative sternal precautions can be difficult for young children. 

Three-year-old Taneigha Avila recently underwent this minimally invasive procedure and now has a repaired ASD with an incision that is barely noticeable. Her recovery was phenomenal and the family has been very pleased with the results. 

She now has an incision that, later in life, can be hidden completely by a bathing suit or bra strap.

(Pictured below: Naruhito Watanabe, Sutter Medical Center, Sacramento Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgeon· 3-year-old Taneigha Avila and her parents, Lana and Matt Avila)

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