May 16, 2003

PHONE: 410-955-1534

Robotic Heart Surgeries Offered at Johns Hopkins

Johns Hopkins surgeons have begun performing minimally invasive heart surgeries with the aid of a robot. In their first case on April 3, they used the robot to place a pacemaker lead in a middle-age woman. During the second case on April 4, surgeons moved a chest wall artery in an 80-year-old man for use in a coronary artery bypass operation.

To use the robotic system, a surgeon sits a few feet away from the patient, at a console with a three-dimensional view of the operating field. As the surgeon moves two handles on the console, the motions are mimicked by mechanical arms with hand-like movements, which carry out the surgery through tiny incisions in the patient's chest. One of the arms holds a camera on one end that transmits images to the console. The arms can eliminate potential hand tremor by the surgeon, and can mimic the doctor's exact motions on a smaller scale.

"Visualization of the operating field is greatly enhanced by the robot," says David Yuh, M.D., an assistant professor of surgery who is developing advanced robotics capabilities for cardiac surgery procedures. "This new technology makes the minimally invasive performance of technically complex cardiac operations possible. With much smaller incisions, we believe that patients will experience less pain, fewer wound complications and shorter lengths of stay than they would after traditional open heart surgery."

The robotic system will be used initially for several procedures, including placement of pacemaker leads, rerouting of blood flow around clogged arteries (bypass surgery), and repair or replacement of the mitral valve, which allows blood to flow through the left side of the heart. It also will be used to help close atrial-septal defects, abnormal openings between the heart's two upper chambers, and to treat some patients with abnormal heart beats, or atrial fibrillation. The robot will help surgeons use radiofrequency energy to destroy heart tissue causing the mixed electrical signals.

The same robotic system has been used for some general abdominal procedures at Johns Hopkins since October 2000.

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Media: To interview Yuh or William A. Baumgartner, M.D., chief of cardiac surgery, or to watch a procedure, please contact Karen Blum at 410-955-1534 or