According to the old saying, the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach. Today, as many patients can attest, the fastest, and least invasive, way is through three small incisions into which a surgeon guides the thin, sleek arms of the da Vinci robotic surgery system.
Phoenixville cardiothoracic surgeons have performed open-heart and pulmonary operations using the da Vinci system. And they’re one of a very small handful of teams in the region doing these procedures.
Cardiovascular robotics is a far less invasive alternative to traditional open-heart surgeries that require weeks to months to heal and leave an 8-10 inch scar down the middle of the patient’s chest.
Tiny incisions, big advances in cardiac surgery
Traditional open-heart surgery requires weeks or even months of healing time and leaves a long scar down the middle of the patient’s chest. However, the first two incisions made in the da Vinci procedure are barely half an inch long, allowing the system’s operating arms to slide thin steel probes between the ribs, pushing aside muscle fibers without severing the tissue. The third incision, which is nearly two inches, accommodates the camera arm that acts as the surgeon’s eyes during the operation, sending detailed three-dimensional visual imagery back to the viewing console.
At the console, the surgeon controls the robotic arms, which mirror the surgeon’s fingers exactly, performing complex and delicate maneuvers in real time. The movement is so fine, it really is duplicating, perhaps even more so, what the surgeon can do with the instrument in hand.
The ideal candidate
For certain cardiac procedures—the most common being bypass surgery—an invasive cardiologist performs traditional stent procedures in conjunction with our robotics-assisted bypass procedure. This gives the patient better results than either procedure alone and offers faster recovery times with more successful outcomes.
And while some patients aren’t ideally suited for robotic surgery, especially those with high levels of arterial blockage or blockage of the right coronary artery, many qualify for this minimally invasive technique.
Less pain, faster recovery
Following traditional bypass surgery, patients are told not to drive for four weeks and to avoid heavy lifting for a minimum of six to eight weeks to allow the sternum to heal.
Since no bones need to mend and the sutures are much smaller, postoperative pain subsides faster and is much easier to manage with robotic surgery. In most cases, patients can resume normal activities within two weeks.