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What is robotic heart surgery?

Robotic cardiac surgery is a form of minimally invasive heart surgery performed through small incisions in the chest. With the use of tiny instruments and robotic devices, our surgeons are able to treat heart conditions in a way that is less invasive than traditional heart surgery.

One of the main advantages of robotic cardiac surgery is that it minimizes many of the risks related to complex heart procedures. With robotic heart surgery, instead of going through your breastbone to get to the chest, your surgeon will go through tiny incisions. 

Another advantage of robotic surgery is the enhanced precision and speed allowed by the EndoWrist instrument. The EndoWrist design is based on the human wrist and its internal cables act like human tendons, but it has a greater range of motion than the human hand.

Robotic surgeries have been used for multiple heart-related procedures, including:

  • Valve surgery
  • Single-vessel and double-vessel bypass
  • Tumor removal
  • Heart defect repair
  • Cardiac tissue ablation
  • Coronary artery bypass

Our approach

Although robotic heart surgery requires the latest technology and highly skilled specialists, it’s pretty routine for us. After all, our physicians — who are among the world’s most experienced cardiothoracic surgeons and have helped develop and advance the field of robotic heart surgery — have collectively performed more than 1,000 robotic cardiac procedures. Our achievements include performing the region’s first robotic closed-chest single and double-beating heart bypass surgery.

Our care team is composed of physicians and health professionals from a variety of disciplines using the latest robotic and imaging technology to provide surgical therapies that are less painful and require shorter recovery time. The team is specially trained in robotic surgery, which means you're being cared for by specialists who have undergone rigorous testing.

Our doctors rely on the latest in technology, including high-powered imaging and robotic tools, to provide you with the the finest in heart surgery treatments. Our robotic heart surgery treatments include:

  • Minimally invasive direct coronary artery bypass (MIDCAB)
  • Mitral valve repair
  • Totally endoscopic coronary bypass
  • Atrial septal defect closure
  • Atrial fibrillation surgery
  • Robotic implantation of heart failure devices

What to expect

During the procedure 

The following is what to expect during robotic cardiac surgery:

  1. You will be placed under general anesthesia with a breathing tube.
  2. A surgeon will make a series of keyhole-sized incisions on the side of your chest. These incisions will align with the openings between your ribs.
  3. Depending on the procedure being performed, several precision-guided robotic arms will be inserted into these incisions.
  4. These robotic arms hold and manipulate tiny instruments in order to perform the required tasks on the heart or surrounding arteries. 
  5. A tiny video camera will be inserted into another incision to provide a magnified, 3D image of the operating site.
  6. The surgeon will control the robotic arms and camera from a special console located within the operating room.
  7. On completion of surgery, the surgeon will remove the instruments and close the incisions.

 After the procedure

Once the robotic cardiac surgery is complete, you will be moved to the recovery area to be monitored. You can expect a relatively short hospital stay to follow, usually half as long as following conventional open heart surgery. Your doctors will typically discharge you once your pain is under control, you can retain liquids without nausea and vomiting, and you pass a number of lab tests.

The following are some of the postsurgical benefits of minimally invasive robotic procedures: 

  • The less invasive nature of robotic cardiac surgery means that you can expect less scarring on your chest. Conventional heart surgery scars can be up to 10 inches; scars from robotic cardiac surgery are usually much smaller.
  • Postsurgical pain also tends to go away much faster than with traditional procedures. After being discharged from the hospital, most patients can manage their pain with over-the-counter pain relievers like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin).
  • You may also return to normal activities more quickly than you would after conventional heart surgery. Most people can resume their normal activities after three weeks. Specific recommendations for activity will be provided by your doctor.

Your doctor will typically schedule follow-up appointments after the procedure to check your progress. Be sure to notify your doctor immediately if any symptoms occur after the procedure, such as chest pain or discomfort. After robotic heart surgery, complications are rare but possible, so it is important to carefully monitor for any symptoms and report them to your doctor.

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