Thoracotomy Vs. Sternotomy For Vicki’s Mitral Valve Surgery… Any Female Perspectives?

Vicki (pictured below) recently sent me a question regarding her upcoming mitral valve surgery. While I have some ideas for Vicki, we thought it might be helpful for Vicki to gather feedback from other patients – especially females. That said… Do you have any thoughts for Vicki? Here is what she writes:

Hi Adam,

I’m scheduled for mitral valve surgery (hopefully repair, not mitral valve replacement) on September 26. I’m a very fit 54-year old woman that climbs mountains, bikes and generally expects a lot of her body!



My surgeon, Doctor Vincent Gaudiani, has given me the choice of a thoracotomy or a midline sternotomy. Considering this choice, I am looking to find one or more women that opted for the thoracotomy, and had the procedure done one or more years ago.


Thoracotomy – Incision Diagram


The pros of the thoracotomy procedure are: 1) aesthetics and 2) no bone breakage. BUT, I’m wondering what the long-term effect of cutting through the intercostal muscles has on mobility, exercise, yoga, etc.

I want to make sure that a thoracotomy is the best option for someone that is very active. It would be a bummer to pick that option, only to find out that my mobility has been lessened – most likely due to pain – over time.

Thanks for your help on this! I just ordered your book! Best regards, Vicki. To provide your thoughts on thoracotomy and sternotomy, please scroll down to leave a comment for Vicki. In advance, thanks for your help!

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Keep on tickin!

Adam Pick
Written by Adam Pick

Adam Pick is a patient, author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery and the founder of

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