A doctor guides robotic arms to do surgery on the heart. The surgery is done through several tiny keyhole incisions.
Robot-assisted cardiac procedures are done to treat a variety of conditions:
mitral valve repair
may be used to treat:
—narrowing of the mitral valve
Regurgitation—leakage of the mitral valve
coronary artery bypass grafting
may be used to treat:
Blockages in the heart’s arteries
Severe chest pain such as
that has not improved with medications
atrial septal defect
repair may be used to treat a hole between the upper chambers of the heart that does not close properly during fetal development.
lead placement may be used to treat heart failure due to
, which is an irregular heart rhythm in the upper chambers of the heart.
Pacemaker leads implanted in heart to maintain normal rhythm.
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Benefits of robot-assisted cardiac procedures may include: Increased range of motion with the robotic armsAbility to filter out human hand tremor and translate the doctor’s larger hand movements into smaller ones
to the body
Shorter hospital stayFaster recovery
Problems from the procedure are rare, but all procedures have some risk. Your doctor will review potential problems, like: Damage to nearby organs or structures in the chestInfectionBleedingBlood clotsAnesthesia-related problemsDeath
Some factors that may increase the risk of complications include:
or heart surgery
Increased ageDiabetesObesitySmokingExcessive alcohol intakeUncontrolled thyroid disease
Be sure to discuss these risks with your doctor before the surgery.
Depending on the reason for your surgery, your doctor may do the following: Physical examBlood and urine testsElectrocardiogram
Coronary angiogramChest x-rayUltrasoundCT scanMRI scan
Leading up to the procedure: Talk to your doctor about your medications. You may be asked to stop taking some medications up to one week before the procedure.Take antibiotics if instructed.Follow a special diet if instructed.Shower the night before using antibacterial soap if instructed.Arrange for someone to drive you home from the hospital. Also, have someone to help you at home.Eat a light meal the night before. Do not eat or drink anything after midnight.
There are two options for anesthesia: General anesthesia
—blocks pain and keeps you asleep through the surgery
Local anesthesia with sedation—just the area that is being operated on is numbed, given as an injection
Several keyhole openings will be cut in the spaces between the ribs. Next, a small camera will be passed through one of the incisions. This small camera is called an endoscope. It will light, magnify, and project an image of the organs onto a monitor. The endoscope will be attached to one of the robotic arms. The other arms will hold instruments for grasping, cutting, dissecting, and suturing. These may include: ForcepsScissorsDissectorsScalpels
While sitting at a console near the operating table, the doctor will use lenses to look at a magnified 3D image of the inside of the chest. Another doctor will stay by the operating table and adjust the camera and instruments. The robotic arms and tools will be guided with joystick-like controls and foot pedals. After the instruments are removed, incisions will be closed with sutures or staples.
After the procedure, you will be: Moved to the intensive care unit (ICU)Closely monitoredEncouraged to sit up and move around soon after surgery
Usually 1-4 hours, depending on the procedure
Anesthesia will prevent pain during surgery. Pain and discomfort after the procedure can be managed with medications.
This procedure is done in a hospital setting. The usual length of stay depends on the procedure you had done. Your doctor may need to keep you longer if you have any problems.
When you return home, do the following to help ensure a smooth recovery: Do deep breathing and coughing exercises.Wash the incisions with mild soap and water.Limit certain activities, such as driving and strenuous activity.Enroll in a cardiac rehabilitation program.
It is important for you to monitor your recovery after you leave the hospital. Alert your doctor to any problems right away. If any of the following occur, call your doctor: Signs of infection, including fever and chillsRedness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or discharge from an incision siteCough, shortness of breath, or chest painRapid weight gainPain and/or swelling in your feet, calves, or legsHeadache, feeling faint or lightheadedNew or worsening symptoms
If you think you have an emergency, call for medical help right away.
About minimally invasive and robotic cardiac surgery. Columbia University Medical Center, Department of Surgery website. Available at:
http://www.columbiasurgery.org/pat/mirobotic/procedures.html. Accessed July 25, 2013.
Atrial septic defect repair. Inova Health System website. Available at:
http://www.inova.org/services/childrens-heart-program/conditions-treatments/atrial-septal-defect. Accessed July 25, 2013.
Valve repair/replacement surgery. Society of Thoracic Surgeons website. Available at:
http://www.sts.org/patient-information/valve-repair. Accessed July 25, 2013.
Robot-assisted heart surgery. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at:
http://my.clevelandclinic.org/services/heart/disorders/robotically-assisted-heart-surgery. Accessed July 25, 2013.
Last reviewed February 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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