Robotics go where no surgeon has gone before

ATLANTA, Nov. 10 -- It's not yet the stuff of "Star Wars," but in early testing, a new technique that uses robotic arms to perform coronary artery bypass surgery is proving safe and appears to be effective, according to researchers at the American Heart Association Scientific Sessions.

The aim of the research is to create a safe, less invasive means of performing coronary bypass surgery, a lifesaving procedure in which blood vessels from the calf or chest are used to route or "bypass" blood around blocked sections of heart arteries. In traditional bypass surgery, the chest cavity is cut open and the bones are "spread," requiring a fairly lengthy and often painful recuperation for patients. The robotics bypass surgery leaves the patient with only a tiny scar, and a much faster and less painful recovery time.

Robotic bypass surgery will likely become available to a select group of heart patients in the near future. However, it will be several years before the technology will be available for large numbers of patients, says Ralph J. Damiano Jr., M.D., professor of surgery and chief of cardiothoracic and vascular surgery at Hershey Medical Center, Penn State University.

Damiano and his colleagues tested the robotic procedure on six men and four women with an average age of 56. In each patient, the robotic operation consisted of freeing a large vessel from the chest wall and sewing it into the left anterior descending coronary artery, the major vessel feeding blood to the left ventricle, the heart's main pumping chamber.

Five additional patients have since been operated on using the robotic system and none have suffered any complications as a result.

"This type of surgery will have a revolutionary impact, not only on heart surgery, but on many types of procedures," Damiano predicts.

"Once the robotic system becomes more cost effective, there is very little reason why you would not want to use it whenever possible. It enhan

Contact: Carole Bullcok
American Heart Association

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