Robotic-Assisted Cardiac Surgery
What is robot-assisted cardiac surgery?
Robot-assisted cardiac surgery is heart surgery done through very small cuts in the
chest. The surgeons use tiny instruments and robot-controlled tools to do heart surgery
in a way that is much less invasive than open-heart surgery. Robot-assisted cardiac
surgery is commonly called robotic cardiac surgery.
Robot-assisted surgeries have been used for a number of different heart-related procedures,
including valve surgery, coronary artery bypass, cardiac tissue ablation, heart defect
repair, and tumor removal.
Why might I need robot-assisted cardiac surgery?
The main benefit of robot-assisted cardiac surgery is that it is less invasive compared
with open-heart surgery. Smaller incisions can mean that you can spend less time in
the hospital, heal faster, and return to activities more quickly.
Your healthcare provider will determine if robot-assisted cardiac surgery is right
for you. It may be used to:
Repair or replace stiff or leaky heart valves
Correct atrial fibrillation, a common type of arrhythmia
Remove a tumor in the heart
Treat congenital heart conditions
To bypass blocked arteries (coronary artery bypass surgery)
Your healthcare provider may have other reasons to recommend robot-assisted cardiac
What are the risks of robot-assisted cardiac surgery?
One of the main benefits of robot-assisted cardiac surgery is that it has fewer risks
than open-heart surgery. The surgeon does not have to cut through the breastbone to
open your chest. This removes many of the complications of open-heart surgery.
Robot-assisted cardiac surgery still requires anesthesia and, as with any kind of
surgery, there are always risks involved, including:
In some cases, your healthcare provider may not be able to complete the surgery with
the robot. If this happens, you would need open-heart surgery. You may have other
risks, based on your specific medical condition. Be sure to talk with your healthcare
provider about any concerns you have before your procedure.
How do I get ready for robot-assisted cardiac surgery?
To see if you are a good candidate for this procedure, your healthcare provider will
review your medical history, and lifestyle, as well as the overall severity of the
Your healthcare provider will explain the procedure to you. Be sure to ask your healthcare
provider about any questions you might have.
You will be asked to sign a consent form that gives your permission to do the procedure.
Read the form carefully and ask questions if something is unclear.
Along with a complete health history, your healthcare provider may do a physical exam
to make sure you are in otherwise good health before you undergo the procedure. You
may also have blood tests and other diagnostic tests.
Your healthcare provider may recommend taking an aspirin before the procedure.
Tell your healthcare provider right away if you are pregnant or think you may be.
You should tell your healthcare provider:
If you are sensitive to or are allergic to any medicines, latex, iodine, tape, contrast
dyes, and anesthesia (local or general)
About all prescribed and over-the-counter medicines, and herbal supplements that you
If you have a history of bleeding disorders or if you are taking any blood-thinning
medicines (anticoagulant), aspirin, or other medicines that affect blood clotting.
You may need to stop these medicines before the procedure. Pay attention to which
medicines to stop before surgery and when.
If you have a pacemaker or other implanted heart device
If you smoke, stop smoking as soon as possible before the procedure. This will improve
your chances for a successful recovery from surgery and your overall health status.
Follow any directions you are given for not eating or drinking before the procedure.
Based on your health condition, your healthcare provider may have other instructions
What happens during robot-assisted cardiac surgery?
Talk with your healthcare provider about the details of your procedure. The following is
the general sequence of events that will most likely occur during robot-assisted cardiac
A healthcare provider with give you anesthesia before the procedure starts. This will
cause you to sleep deeply and not feel pain during the surgery. You may receive a
sedative before the procedure to help you relax.
Once you are asleep, a breathing tube will be inserted through your throat into your
lungs and you will be connected to a ventilator, which will breathe for you during
A surgeon will make a series of keyhole-sized cuts (incisions) on the side of your
chest. These incisions will align with the openings between your ribs.
You may need to be placed on the heart-lung machine for the procedure.
Depending on the procedure being done, your surgeon will insert several precision-guided
robotic arms into these incisions.
These robotic arms hold and manipulate tiny instruments to do the required tasks on
the heart or surrounding arteries.
A tiny video camera will be inserted into another incision to provide a magnified,
three-dimensional image of the operating site.
The surgeon will control the robotic arms and camera from a console located within
the operating room.
Once complete, the surgeon will remove the instruments and close the incisions.
Talk with your healthcare provider about what you will experience during your procedure.
What happens after robot-assisted cardiac surgery?
Once the surgery is done, you will be moved to the recovery area to be monitored.
You can expect a relatively short hospital stay to follow, usually half as long as
that after conventional open-heart surgery. Your healthcare provider will typically
discharge you once your pain is under control, you can keep liquids down without nausea
and vomiting, and your lab tests appear near normal or near your baseline before the
procedure. Make plans to have someone give you a ride home from the hospital.
You can also expect less scarring on your chest. Open-heart surgery may leave a 10-inch
scar on your chest. Robot-assisted cardiac surgery just leaves a few smaller scars
on the side of your chest.
After being discharged from the hospital, most people can manage their pain with over-the-counter
pain relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. Pain also tends to go away much faster
than with open-heart procedures. Remember to take all or your medicines as prescribed.
Your incisions need to be kept clean and dry. Do not use powders, lotions, or ointments
on the incision lines as this can irritate the skin and cause prolonged healing and
increase the risk for infection. Do not soak the incisions in water until your healthcare
provider says it's OK.
You may also return to normal activities more quickly than you would after open-heart
surgery. Most people can resume their normal activities after a few weeks. Your healthcare
provider will provide specific recommendations for activity.
Your healthcare provider will typically schedule follow-up appointments to check your
progress. Tell your healthcare provider right away if any symptoms occur after the
procedure, such as chest pain or discomfort. Complications are rare after robot-assisted
heart surgery, but they can happen. So it's important to carefully watch out for any
symptoms and report them to your healthcare provider.
Before you agree to the test or the procedure make sure you know:
The name of the test or procedure
The reason you are having the test or procedure
What results to expect and what they mean
The risks and benefits of the test or procedure
What the possible side effects or complications are
When and where you are to have the test or procedure
Who will do the test or procedure and what that person’s qualifications are
What would happen if you did not have the test or procedure
Any alternative tests or procedures to think about
When and how you will get the results
Who to call after the test or procedure if you have questions or problems
How much you will have to pay for the test or procedure