Robotic Heart Surgery:
A Revolution In Heart Treatment
A New Era In Minimally Invasive Surgery
Robotic heart surgery ushers in a new era in minimally invasive surgery. Science has made great strides in cardiac surgery. It is amazing enough that a surgeon can…
- completely bypass a blocked coronary artery to restore normal blood flow
- or repair a faulty heart valve
- or replace a section of the aorta damaged by an aneurism
- or replace the heart altogether
Today this same surgeon can perform many cardiovascular operations through smaller incisions using specialized instruments. Instead of making a 6 to 8 inch incision and splitting the chest, minimally invasive surgery requires much smaller incisions and no splitting of the breast bone.
What Is Minimally Invasive Surgery?
Minimally invasive surgery focuses on reducing the trauma associated with surgery in general and heart and cardiovascular surgery in particular. Smaller incisions mean smaller scars. There are other benefits as well.
- Less pain and therefore less trauma
- Recovery time is usually more than cut in half
- Average stay in hospital is normally reduced
- Less blood loss and reduced risk of infection
In most cases minimally invasive surgery involves passing a small tube called an endoscope through a very small incision. The endoscope contains an advanced optical device allowing the surgeon to see what he or she is doing.
Long surgical instruments are sometimes passed through the endoscope. At other times a second small incision may be made through which the surgeon can manipulate the surgical instruments.
Endoscopic surgery is a great breakthrough for many types of surgery. But it has its limits. It works well when the area needing repair is stationary and when the procedure is not too complex. The long instruments can be difficult to maneuver exaggerating hand movements (such as tremors). Therefore minimally invasive surgery techniques have had limited success with complicated heart repair.
But robotic heart surgery takes minimally invasive surgery a leap forward further minimizing the extent of trauma associated with cardiac surgery.
Robotic heart surgery is removing many of the barriers associated with the application of minimally invasive heart surgery.
What Is Robotic Heart Surgery?
The use of robotics is pushing minimally invasive surgery far beyond its previous limitations. This advance further reduces a patient’s physical and emotional trauma normally associated with heart surgery.
Robotic heart surgery (closed chest heart surgery) involves a highly specialized computer controlling surgical instruments at the end of thin robotic arms. Instead of the surgeon manipulating long instruments, the computer interprets the surgeon’s movements within a small confined space. Essentially the complex system transforms the surgeon’s hands into tiny instruments.
The procedure involves making small incisions or "ports" between the ribs. A camera and the surgical instruments attached to the robotic arms are inserted into these ports. The optical system provides the surgeon with a magnified 3-dimensional view of the area needing repair.
The robotic surgical system is not programmed to do anything on its own. Every movement is the interpretation of the surgeon’s movements. The surgeon is able to move his hands in much the same way as would be the case in traditional surgery. These movements are then filtered and translated into precise maneuvers within a confined space beyond the reach of the surgeon’s hands.
Robotic heart surgery equipment like the da Vinci System was developed so a surgeon could operate on a patient from any distance. This has special application for military personnel wounded in battle. A soldier could potentially receive treatment from a specialist thousands of miles away.
But distance is only one of the advantages of using such a system. Even the steadiest surgeon has minor vibrations in his hands. Robotic surgical systems correct for that shakiness. This allows for more precision than would be possible otherwise.
Through robotic heart surgery a surgeon can operate as if his hands were inside the chest cavity of the patient, but with a higher degree of control. Many doctors feel that robotic surgery will become the standard for many kinds of surgery in all fields of medicine.
Robotic heart surgery, as well as other types of robotic surgeries, is in its infancy. But the developing technology promises a bright future for heart treatment.
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