Jewish Hospital is First in Louisville Area to Offer Robotically-assisted Heart Procedures


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Louisville, Ky. — Surgeons at Jewish Hospital in Louisville, Kentucky are once again on the forefront of innovation in the field of heart care.  Jewish Hospital is the only hospital in the Louisville area using the da Vinci® Surgical System to perform minimally invasive heart procedures to treat common cardiothoracic conditions such as heart valve disease, heart failure and coronary heart disease.

The da Vinci is a robotically-assisted surgical system that uses small incisions to introduce miniaturized instruments and a high-definition camera, enabling surgeons to view magnified, high-resolution images of the surgical site.  At the same time, robotic and computer technologies translate the surgeon's hand movements into precise micro-movements of the da Vinci instruments.

At Jewish Hospital, the da Vinci robot is also used for urology, gynecology and bariatric surgeries. da Vinci heart procedures are the most recent to develop because of the complex nature of these surgeries.  “The Robotic Cardiac Program started in 2010, with our first mitral valve repair being performed in January 2011.  Many more cases have followed since,” said Dr. Sebastian Pagni, in charge of the minimally invasive and robotic cardiac program

Typical open heart surgery involved placing the patient on the heart-lung bypass machine; creating a 6- to 8-inch incision through the sternum; spreading the ribs and stopping the heart in order to stabilize the surgical field.  Recovery after the surgery is long and often painful due to the large chest wound 

Patients undergoing da Vinci robotic heart surgery usually have small incisions in the chest and the sternum is not opened.  In most cases, patients have far fewer restrictions on activities, lower pain levels and are up and active much sooner. 

“The da Vinci instruments are more flexible and operate much more like the human hand than previous minimally-invasive surgical systems,” said Dr. Pagni, a cardiothoracic surgeon with University Cardiothoracic Surgical Associates and the University of Louisville.  “It allows us to perform precise surgical procedures, such as mitral valve repair, with a few smaller incisions in the right chest wall.”

Potential benefits of da Vinci heart procedures include:
• Reduced risk of infection
• Less blood loss and need for blood transfusions
• Shorter hospital stay
• Less pain and scarring
• Faster recovery and return to normal activities
• Greater cosmetic and patient satisfaction

The da Vinci heart procedure was a welcome option for Frances Edwards, 72, who was diagnosed with severe mitral and tricuspid valve regurgitation.  Following the diagnosis, Edwards’ daughter, Sarah Luckhardt, thought back to when her dad had open heart surgery and the intense and long recovery period he experienced. 

“He slept in a recliner for seven weeks after he came home,” Luckhardt said.  “I just wasn’t sure if my mom could go through all of that. She is more fragile. She is borderline diabetic and she bruises easily.”

Doctors suggested Edwards consider a robotically-assisted repair procedure at Jewish Hospital, to correct the problem.  Luckhardt said she discussed the pros and cons with her mother and brother and they made the decision to move forward, and she is glad they did. 

On August 8, 2011, Dr. Pagni performed robotically-assisted mitral valve repair and tricuspid valve repair on Edwards at Jewish Hospital.

“I would highly recommend the procedure to others,” Luckhardt said.  “The surgery was a bit longer, but the recovery was much better.  On her second day in the hospital, she was sitting in a chair watching television.”

Four weeks following the surgery, Edwards was doing well and had returned to most normal activities, though she avoids heavy lifting. 

“Using the da Vinci system, we are offering our patients less-invasive options for procedures that otherwise would result in longer hospital stays and more intense recovery,” said Dr. Pagni.  “For patients who qualify, this innovative new approach is certainly a welcome option.”

Jewish Hospital is an internationally renowned high-tech tertiary referral center developing leading-edge advancements in hand and microsurgery, heart and lung care, home care, rehab medicine (including sports medicine), orthopaedics, neuroscience, occupational health, organ transplantation and outpatient and primary care.  Site of the world’s first successful hand transplant, and the world’s first and second successful AbioCor® Implantable Replacement Heart procedures, the hospital is also federally designated to perform all five solid organ transplants – heart, lung, liver, kidney and pancreas.






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Last Updated: 2/4/2015