Robotic Heart Repair

May 5, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
As many as five million people live with a heart condition called mitral valve prolapse. It's usually harmless, but sometimes it can become debilitating. "I had developed shortness of breath along with other symptoms," says Tony Teutsch

Teutsch was only 12 years old when he found out he had a heart murmur.

"I had developed shortness of breath along with other symptoms. I was skipping a beat, or palpitations, just chest pain," Teutsch says.

At 47, he was diagnosed with a mitral valve leak. With every heart beat, the valve that controlled the flow of blood into the left ventricle pumped blood into his lungs.

These patients generally have two options: a valve replacement or surgical repair. But Teutsch had a third choice. He'd be one of the first people in the country to have a new procedure -- an advanced mitral valve repair called "The American Correction," performed by a robot.

"This is the first technology that actually gives us a better view and more capacity to do a better accurate operation," says Gerald Lawrie, M.D., a cardiothoracic surgeon at The Methodist Hospital in Houston, Texas.

The surgeon directs the robot from a console. Unlike other valve repairs, this procedure is minimally invasive.

"Instead of making a cut down the front here, we put tubes in through the armpit, from the side," Dr. Lawrie says.

The four tubes are attached to the robot's arms.

"The robot now has four arms, as opposed to the surgeon's two arms. So right away we have doubled the number of things we can be doing," Dr. Lawrie says.

A 3-D telescopic lens gives doctors an extra set of eyes.

"We can get the instruments right down inside the chamber. We're not standing back looking in from two or three feet. We are actually right inside there working on it," Dr. Lawrie says.

Weeks later, Teutsch came back to the operating room to say thanks to the man and the machine. Together, they gave him his life back.

Although this robotic surgery takes longer than traditional procedures, the recovery time is actually shorter. Doctors say there is also less risk of infection and less scarring.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, PLEASE CONTACT:
The Methodist Hospital
Patient Information Line
(713) 790-3311
geraldlawriemd.com


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