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Robotic Surgery for Mitral Valve Repair

Emmanuel Daon, MD, FACS, cardiothoracic surgeon

Robotic surgery is quickly gaining momentum as the standard of care for mitral valve repair. The advantages over traditional open heart surgery are numerous and significant. At The University of Kansas hospital, patients have access to a highly trained team experienced in robotic heart surgery.

Robotic surgery becomes science fact

An experienced cardiac surgeon sits behind a 3-D high-definition monitor and controls a NASA-inspired robot with instruments that are more precise than the human hand and more dexterous than the human wrist. Through five small incisions, the surgeon is able to perform a mitral valve repair with absolute confidence. Robotic surgery may sound futuristic, but in 2009 it became a reality for heart patients at The University of Kansas Hospital. Today, the da Vinci® Surgical System is our standard of care for mitral valve repair.

Benefits over open heart surgery

Traditional mitral valve repair or replacement involves making a long incision in the chest, splitting the sternum and spreading the ribs. The result is a large scar and a lengthy recovery period. Using the da Vinci Surgical System, our cardiac team is able to repair this disorder with minimal lifestyle disruptions for the patient.

Our cardiac robotic surgeries typically take place on Fridays, and many of our patients are released from the hospital on Monday. They can usually get back to their normal routines in 3-4 weeks. With conventional open heart surgery, patients often spend 7-8 days in the hospital, and it can take months for them to return to normal activities.  

Advantages of robotic surgery
  • Less post-operative pain
  • Faster recovery time
  • Minimized hospital stay
  • Earlier return to normal routine
  • Lower risk of infection/complications
  • Reduced need for blood transfusions
  • Minimal collateral damage to the body
  • Small incisions and less scaring
  • Reduced pre-surgery anxiety

Best candidates for robotic heart surgery

Currently, isolated mitral valve regurgitation, atrial septal defect and certain heart tumors are the only cardiac conditions suitable for robotic surgery at The University of Kansas hospital. Patients may be experiencing one or both of these disorders. However, if the patient presents with additional cardiac conditions, a conventional sternotomy will be required to complete the extensive interventions. 

Experienced team is key

As with any surgical procedure, finding an exceptional facility and an experienced team makes all the difference. At our hospital, we start with a state-of-the-art operating suite and proven technology: the da Vinci Surgical System, which has been used in tens of thousands of minimally invasive procedures worldwide.

In addition, our cardiac team has years of surgery experience and has performed hundreds of valve operations. We have the confidence to handle unusual cases and understand the importance of repairing, rather than replacing, a mitral valve.

Patient satisfaction soars

We decided many years ago to focus on minimally invasive surgery because it's the right thing to do for our patients. Our robotic surgery systems and training are expensive – but healthier, happier patients are a priceless reward. There is no reason Kansas City area residents should have to leave the region in search of the most innovative treatments and highest standards of care. 

The future of robotic surgery 

Based on our success with mitral valve repair, we hope to expand our robotic surgery program by offering other minimally invasive cardiac procedures. Next on our agenda is hybrid revascularization. Using the da Vinci Surgical System, we will be able to perform coronary artery bypass operations in selected patients.

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