Robotic surgery being developed within cardiac operations

HUCH Heart and Lung Center is the only Nordic unit that has started active cardiac surgical robot program. The first robot assisted mitral valve operation was done in the spring of 2011. In the end of March several foreign professors specialised in robot surgery visited the HUCH Cardiac Surgery Department.

Professor Johannes Bonatti from Cleveland Clinic, Professor Eric J. Lehr from Swedish Hospital (Seattle, U.S.A.), and Professor Nicolaos Bonaros from Innsbruck operated last week the first coronary bypass surgery in Finland done with a robot. The patient was operated double mammari artery  bypasses to LAD and LCX coronary arteries. The operation is called TECAB (total endoscopic CAB). The result of the operation was excellent, and was done in cooperation of an experienced team. The patient recovered well and has already returned home, and is now resuming all everyday activities.

Professor Bonatti started robotic-assisted surgery already in 2001 in the Innbruck Medical University, and further developed it in the University of Maryland (MD, U.S.A.). Professor Bonatti has operated more than 600 cases TECAB cases, both on cardioplegia heart and beating heart.

Professor Bonatti currently works in Cleveland Clinic, and is founding a new hospital, brach oc Cleveland Clinic, in Abu Dabi. In the new hospital he will be the chief of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery Department, which is the surgical arm of the institute. Bonatti sees many improvements in robotic-assisted cardiac surgery compared to open-heart surgery.

– The patients’ sternum stays completely intact, and surgical trauma is reduced. The recovery time is quicker, and deep wound infections of chest are avoided, he says.

–Robot adds a precicion to the procedure. You can work up to ten times of magnification and see many details that are not seen in open-heart surgery. Robot also takes the shaking out of surgeons’ hand.

Patients operated with robotic-assisted cardiac surgery are back to normal activity in about 2-3 weeks, compared to midline cut patients that take about 3 months to recover.

Professor Bonatti says that Helsinki is a perfect place to develop robot assisted cardiac surgery. Although using robot adds expences, earlier recovery and reduction of infections compensate higher costs.
– The team is already doing complex mitral operations, and using a robot would be an appropriate next step.
– I certainly would be happy to cooperate with them in the future too, he says.

The HUCH Cardiac Surgery Department wil start TECAB -operations within this year. For the team it will bring more education, and even more international networking. The clinic in HUCH is one of the pioneers in this field in Europe.

Chief Physician Kalervo Werkkala (left), Professor Johannes Bonatti, Professor Eric J. Lehr and Professor Pekka-Tapani Harjola following a real-time operation in Meilahti hospital. Professor Harjola did the first bypass surgery in Finland 40 years ago.