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Robotically Assisted Surgery

Minimally Invasive and Robotically Assisted Valve operations:

Robotically assisted heart surgery, is a type of Minimally Invasive surgery. The surgeon uses a specially designed computer console to control surgical instruments on thin robotic arms. A second cardiac surgeon is tableside, assisting with instruments and sutures while viewing the operation on a TV monitor.

Robotically assisted surgery has changed the way certain heart operations are being performed. This technology allows surgeons to perform certain types of complex heart surgeries with smaller incisions and precise motion control, offering patients a quicker recovery.

Robotic Surgical System

The computer-enhanced robotic system consists of three components, including:

  • A three-dimensional view of the surgical field, including depth of field, magnification and high resolution
  • Instruments on thin robotic arms that are designed to mimic the movement of the human hands, wrists and fingers, allowing an extensive range of motion and more precision
  • Master controls that allow the surgeon to manipulate the instruments, translating the surgeon’s natural hand and wrist movements into corresponding, precise and scaled movements

How is robotically assisted surgery performed?

Image used with permission by Intuitive Surgical, IncFirst, three small incisions or "ports" are made in the spaces between the ribs.

The surgical instruments (attached to the robotic arms), and one camera are placed through these ports.

Motion sensors are attached to the robotic "wrist" so the surgeon can control the movement of the surgical instruments.

The surgeon sits at a computer console and looks through two lenses (one for each eye) that display images from the specialized camera with two optical outputs.

From the two optical outputs, the computer generates a clear, three-dimensional image of the surgical site for the surgeon to view. Foot pedals provide precise camera control, so the surgeon can instantly zoom in and out to change the surgical view.

Image used with permission by Intuitive Surgical, IncThe surgeon’s hands control the movement and placement of the endoscopic instruments. The robotic "arm and wrist" movements mimic those of the surgeon, yet are possibly more precise than the surgeon’s natural hand and wrist movements.

The surgeon is always in control during the surgery and there will always be two Twin Cities Heart and Lung surgeons operating during these procedures: one at the console and the other scrubbed at the operating table beside the patient. What are the benefits of robotically assisted surgery?

Compared with traditional surgery, the benefits of robotically assisted surgery may include:

  • Smaller incisions with minimal scarring
  • Less trauma to the patient, including less pain
  • Shorter hospital stay (usually 3 to 4 days)
  • Decreased use of pain medications
  • Less bleeding
  • Decreased risk of infection
  • Shorter recovery and quicker return to daily and professional activities: The patient can resume normal activities and work as soon as he or she feels up to it; there are no specific activity restrictions after robotically-assisted surgery

The robotically assisted surgery incision: smaller incisions

Traditional open-heart surgery incision Robotically assisted surgery incision An inside view

Who is a candidate for robotically assisted surgery?

Diagnostic tests are performed to determine if you are an appropriate candidate for robotically assisted surgery, including a cardiac catheterization and chest x-ray. An echocardiogram and/or a computed tomography scan also may be required to provide more information about your medical condition.

Your surgeon will review the results of these diagnostic tests to determine if you are an appropriate candidate for robotically assisted surgery. The type of treatment recommended for your condition will depend on several factors, including the type and severity of heart disease, your age, medical history and lifestyle.

What are the risks of surgery?

As with any surgery, there are risks involved. Your surgical risks are related to your age, the presence of other medical conditions and the number of procedures you undergo during a single operation. Your doctor will discuss your personal risks before surgery; please ask questions to make sure you understand all of the potential risks.

Recovery after robotically assisted surgery

Your doctor will provide specific guidelines for your recovery and return to work, including specific instructions on activity and how to care for your incisions and general health after the surgery.

Most patients can resume normal activities, drive and return to work as soon as they feel up to it -- usually within a few days to one week after surgery.

If you would like to find out whether you are a candidate for robot assisted heart surgery or learn more about minimally invasive heart surgery, contact us at 763-236-9500 or visit our web site at

As the only center in the metropolitan Twin Cities area doing robotic Heart and Thoracic Surgery we would be happy to discuss this option with you and determine if it would be recommended.