Robot Repairs A Broken Heart


ATLANTA, Ga. (Ivanhoe Newswire) — Three million Americans every year struggle with a leaky mitral valve.  The condition can put strain on the heart, and can cause the muscle to flutter, or beat irregularly. Now a minimally invasive procedure is helping patients get back on their feet faster.

Susan Watkins has always been active.

“I walk a lot; I work out with a personal trainer at least once a week,” Watkins said.

She even loves horseback riding! But last year, she noticed some unusual symptoms while simply walking.

Watkins explained, “I got winded and I knew that’s not normal for me.”

An echocardiogram revealed Watkins’ mitral valve was leaking and needed repair. Cardiac surgeon Douglas Murphy, MD, from Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital says a severe leak like Watkins’ can take its toll on the heart.

Dr. Murphy said, “That’s blood leaking backwards at high velocity.” (Read Full Interview)

Watkins needed surgery to repair the valve.

“Traditionally it was saw the sternum in half and operate from the front of the chest.” Dr. Murphy told Ivanhoe.

Now Dr. Murphy and his team perform the procedure robotically, making five tiny incisions on the side of the patient.

Dr. Murphy said, “If you come from the side, the right side, it’s a straight shot to the valve.”

Then the surgeon controls the robotic instruments from a console ten feet away. Because the surgery is much less invasive it reduces the risk of complications.

“The number one complication in heart surgery is stroke, we see less than one percent stroke with this.” Dr. Murphy stated.

And the recovery is much faster. Watkins spent two nights in the hospital and was exercising four weeks after surgery.

“I’m not even tired. My heart rate is hardly up. I don’t have any problem breathing at all, no shortness of breath,” Watkins said.

Repairing broken hearts for a long and healthy life.

Dr. Murphy says not every patient with a mitral valve leak needs surgery. If the leak is mild, most doctors will monitor the condition closely to make sure it doesn’t get worse.






REPORT:        MB #4428


BACKGROUND: Mitral regurgitation is leakage of blood backward through the mitral valve each time the left ventricle contracts. A leaking mitral valve allows blood to flow in two directions during the contraction. Leakage can increase blood volume and pressure in the area. The increased blood pressure in the left atrium can increase pressure in the veins leading from the lungs to the heart. Mild mitral regurgitation may not have any symptoms. When regurgitation is more severe, a person may have palpitations, especially when lying on the left side, or the heart may enlarge to maintain forward flow of blood, causing heart failure. This may produce symptoms ranging from shortness of breath during exertion, coughing, congestion around the heart and lungs, and swelling of the legs and feet.



TREATMENT: Some people, especially those with mild regurgitation, might not need treatment. However, the condition may require monitoring by your doctor. Medication may be prescribed to treat symptoms, although medication can’t treat mitral valve regurgitation. The mitral valve may need to be repaired or replaced. Doctors may suggest mitral valve repair or replacement even if the patient isn’t experiencing symptoms, as this may prevent complications and improve outcomes. Mitral valve surgery is usually performed through an incision in the chest. In some cases, doctors may conduct minimally invasive heart surgery, which involves the use of smaller incisions than those used in open-heart surgery. Doctors at some medical centers may perform robot-assisted heart surgery, a type of minimally invasive heart surgery.



NEW TECHNOLOGY: In a minimally invasive mitral valve repair, the surgeon makes a small incision on the right side of the chest, either above or below the breast, without breaking or cutting the breastbone, as in traditional sternotomy. He or she inserts surgical instruments to access the heart and repair the valve. This procedure typically results in less blood loss, less postoperative pain, less scarring, and a shorter recovery time than sternotomy, or open heart surgery. Published research by NYU Langone doctors shows that the long-term clinical outcomes for 1,000 people who had minimally invasive procedures were equivalent to the outcomes of those who had a sternotomy.




Mary Beth Spence, PR


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Doctor Q and A

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