Traditionally, heart surgery is performed by dividing the breastplate with a saw (sternotomy). Minimally invasive cardiac surgery is where smaller incisions are made to perform the same operations. Robotic heart surgery is a form of minimally invasive heart surgery that uses the more dexterous robotic instruments to perform surgery through even smaller incisions with a degree of precision that is difficult without them.
Robotic instruments have the same dexterity and range of motion of a surgeon’s hands but are very small (around 8 mm in diameter). Also, the robotic system also helps smooth out surgeon hand and finger motion using a “fly by wire” type of approach similar to that used in modern jet aircraft. In other words, the movements of a surgeons hand can be affected by things like tremor, but these types of movements are eliminated by the robotic system. Additionally, the ability to precisely control the high definition 3D camera of the robotic system and to steer it easily into position along with a small robot-controlled surgical retractor allows for excellent visualization as you can see yourself from the videos on this website.
Precision Robotic Surgical Procedures Require a Team Approach and Experience
Robotic heart surgery requires a highly trained and experienced surgeon and team to perform. The team functions like other high performance teams such as a pit crew in racing to achieve a high level of performance. With robotics, the surgeon sits at a console in the operating room controlling the instruments while looking at a high-definition 3D image from the camera inside the patient. The surgeon controls the robot at all times. It does not do anything without the surgeon directing it (just as a pilot controls an airplane).
Learn from this website what robotic mitral valve surgery and other types of robotic heart surgery procedures are all about! The most important factor in selecting a center for robotic heart surgery is training and experience. Recent media reports have expressed appropriate concern over the safety of robotics by surgeons and teams that are inadequately trained and prepared for these advanced procedures. I have spent over a decade focused on the mastery of robotic surgery at every level including extensive formal and informal robotic cardiac surgery training followed by a lot of experience.
Another issue to be aware of is that while many hospitals and surgeons say they do robotic heart surgery, but very few are doing it routinely in high volumes and through only tiny (<20 mm) incisions. I mostly do what I consider to be totally endoscopic procedures, which I define as: the incisions are so small (usually 8-15 mm in mitral valve repair) that you cannot see into the chest directly to do any portion of the procedure.
Keep in mind that most patients undergoing heart surgery need a standard incision depending on what their problem is. However, many heart surgery procedures are easily performed with the robot. Also understand that there are many different techniques and methods to repair your mitral valve. There are many excellent surgeons who use alternative techniques with great results (such as sternotomy, mini-sternotomy, “port access” mini-thoracotomy, and others). That being said, I sincerely believe in robotic cardiac surgery for an appropriate patient because it allows me to make truly tiny incisions to do the operation, avoid a sternotomy (sawing open the breastplate), and see and repair the mitral valve with great clarity and precision.
The purpose of this website is to provide you with detailed information about robotic cardiac surgery from a surgeon who does it and empower you so that you can make informed choices about your medical care. Ultimately the decisions are yours. I want to make sure you are able to make informed decisions and truly understand your options.