By Stephanie Stahl


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A more patient-friendly approach to heart surgery has been introduced to the medical world. It’s a minimally invasive procedure that doctors say could be a game-changer. Heart bypass surgery saves lives, but it traditionally comes with a long and difficult recovery.

Seventy-one-year-old Skip Vinchess is feeling better than he has in a long time, just a few weeks after having double coronary bypass surgery.

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It’s a procedure that, until now, could have sidelined him for months.

“The recovery has just been a miracle. I’m back to normal, my heart is strong and I’m able to do whatever I want to do. It just feels terrific,” Vinchess said.

This is because his surgery was done totally endoscopically. Doctors were able to make small incisions and use a robot to complete the bypass and treat the serious blockages in his arteries.

Traditionally, bypass surgeries are invasive and involves cutting open the chest, and the recovery is much more painful and carries a higher risk of infection.

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“After a totally endoscopic bypass, patients return to their normal life very, very quickly — without pain, without that prolonged recovery, without narcotics,” chair of cardiovascular surgery, Dr. John Puskas, said.

It’s a more demanding and difficult operation, but some say it could be a “game changer” for patients.

“I think this could change the paradigm of how we treat the disease process that is the most common killer of human beings: coronary heart disease,” Dr. Puskas said.

Vinchess says he feels like he has been given a gift.

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“It’s just been an amazing trajectory for me, each day I feel better and better,” he said.

He also says that he hopes one day the surgery that saved his life will become the standard. But doctors say only certain patients would be eligible for the surgery.

Stephanie Stahl