Closed heart bypass surgery a potential game-changer

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NEW YORK (CBS) Surgeons believe a new, non-invasive procedure could be a game-changer when it comes to heart bypass surgery. Meet one of the first patients to have it done at one of the few hospitals in the world putting it to use.

"I feel better than I have in a long time," said Skip Vichness, 71.

Vichness is back up and moving just a few weeks after having double coronary bypass surgery. It's a procedure that, until now, could have sidelined him with months of recovery.

"The recovery has just been a miracle," he said. "I'm back to normal, my heart is strong and I'm able to do whatever I want to do. It just feels terrific."

That's because Vichness' surgery was done totally endoscopically, meaning doctors were able to make small incisions and use a robot to complete the bypass and treat the serious blockages in his arteries.

Traditional bypass surgery is invasive and involves cutting open the chest. The recovery is much more painful and carries a higher risk of infection.

"After a totally endoscopic bypass, patients return to their normal life very, very quickly. Without pain, without that prolonged recovery, without narcotics," said Dr. John Puskas, the chair of Cardiovascular Surgery at Mount Sinai St. Luke's.

Puskas is one of the few surgeons in the world performing the new procedure. He says it's a more demanding and difficult operation but he believes 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," he said.

Vichness says he feels like he's been given a gift.

"It's just been an amazing trajectory for me," he said. "Each day I feel better and better."

He hopes one day the surgery that saved his life will become the standard.