This is one of a series of columns about health issues written by staff members of ProMedica Physician Group, Mercy Health Partners, University of Toledo Medical Center, and the Toledo Clinic.
What comes to mind when we hear the words "open heart surgery?"
Most of us rely on the experiences related by friends, family, and others. The common thread is that "open heart surgery" is a very serious operation — and like all surgical procedures — carries potential risks and personal anxieties. Many possible consequences come into our minds. It is a frightening prospect.
Today, thanks to advances in minimally invasive surgical technology, the images of "open heart surgery" can be quite different and much less frightening.
Robotic technology has made it possible for cardiothoracic surgeons to develop skill sets that allow them to operate on the heart, making dramatically smaller incisions and using port sites only. Specialized scopes and surgical instrumentation, including the da Vinci surgical robot, have made this transition to a more minimally invasive approach possible.
The incisions or port sites are made on the sides of the chest between ribs and does not require more invasive surgical techniques, as is the case with "traditional open heart procedures."
Other benefits of robotic/minimally invasive surgery include:
•Lower risk of minor and major complications including stroke and infection;
•Less blood loss and pain;
•Shorter hospital stay, many times only one to three days — then home for the remainder of the recovery time, which can be a little as two to three weeks. With traditional "open heart surgical procedures," home recovery can last up to three months
Imagine having heart surgery and returning to full activities and work in less than four weeks!
As mentioned above, the various procedures which can be performed using the surgical robot and other minimally invasive surgical techniques include coronary artery bypass to treat blocked heart arteries, heart valve repair and/or replacement in patients with mitral valve disease, repair of small holes in the heart such as atrial septal defects, and procedures to correct the abnormal heart rhythm of atrial fibrillation.
The area of fastest technologic advances currently are in the area of pulmonary or lung surgery for diagnostic procedures and for lung cancer treatment.
Some questions you or your family members should consider and discuss with your physician team include:
•What is my condition and what is the "traditional" treatment option?
•Am I a candidate for robotic surgery?
•Do you know of a surgeon who uses the surgical robot to perform surgical procedures on the heart?
•How long can I realistically manage being away from my job?
•What are my concerns about risks or complications from a more invasive, traditional surgical approach such as blood transfusion, stroke, infection, etc.?
Educate yourself and your family about robot assisted surgical treatment options for heart-related problems.
Perhaps you will find you are an excellent candidate for one of these innovative procedures.
Remember, the most important treatment a physician can offer his patient is the right procedure for their particular situation. Everyone is an individual and not all heart and lung issues can be treated in the same fashion.
Kim Brunsting is a nurse practitioner for Mercy Cardiothoracic Surgical Associates, mercyweb.org.
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