SOURCE: HealthPartners

September 17, 2007 11:49 ET

Minnesota Medical First - Robot Used to Repair Heart Valve

Turtle Lake, Wis., Man Prepares to Leave Regions Hospital After Successful Operation

ST. PAUL, MN--(Marketwire - September 17, 2007) - Clay Barritt had surgery at Regions Hospital on Wednesday to repair a valve in his heart. The 60-year-old from Turtle Lake, Wis., is not unlike the thousands of people in the area who have procedures like this every year. But what's different about Barritt is that he had a robot assist in his surgery -- a medical first in Minnesota. Another thing different about Barritt: he doesn't have a long scar on his chest and the pain that usually accompanies open heart surgery.

The revolutionary new advancement in cardiac surgery making this possible is "da Vinci S Surgical System" that surgeons at Regions are using to provide minimally invasive treatment for mitral valve repair, a complicated procedure that traditionally requires open-heart surgery.

"The robotic system is revolutionizing heart surgery," said Goya Raikar, M.D., head of the hospital's cardiovascular surgery department, who performed the first surgery in Minnesota on Wednesday. "It represents one more piece of our ongoing commitment to provide the best comprehensive care to our patients."

Most patients undergoing procedures performed with the robotic system will realize several benefits, including faster recovery times, shorter hospital stays and less pain, scarring, blood loss and risk of infection. In fact, on average most patients are back to normal daily activities within two weeks -- sometimes even less -- and hospitalization is typically cut in half.

As for Barritt, who retired from 3M three years ago, he's grateful that he and his wife, Carol, will be able to keep their plans to head to their winter home in Florida later next month. "We did a lot of research and knew that this was the route we wanted to go because of the faster recovery time," Barritt said. "I was sitting up in my bed three hours after surgery. That's amazing."

The da Vinci surgical robot couples the surgeon's own skills with the precision of robotic technology. The system includes a surgeon's console, a cart located at the side of the patient with four interactive robotic arms, a high-performance 3-D vision system and surgical instruments that provide range of motion and dexterity exceeding that of a human.

Traditional mitral valve surgery involves a long incision, and surgeons must split the breast bone to reach the heart. Patients typically have an 8-12 week, painful recovery. With the da Vinci robotic system, surgeons operate through four small incisions made between the ribs, so patients avoid the drawbacks of traditional heart surgery. The surgeon is seated at the console a few feet away from the patient, where they view an actual image of the surgery site and operate in real-time, through tiny incisions, with the robotically enhanced surgical instruments.

Regions is now the first hospital in Minnesota offering a full range of da Vinci assisted cardiac surgery, including coronary artery bypass surgery. In addition, the hospital uses the system for treating prostate cancer and other urological, general, thoracic, and gynecological surgeries.

The da Vinci Surgical System is made by California-based Intuitive Surgical Systems.

Regions Hospital is a Level I Trauma Center and teaching hospital serving Minnesota and western Wisconsin for more than 130 years. Regions is a private, non-profit hospital providing outstanding care in women's health, heart, cancer, surgery, orthopaedics, neuroscience, burn, emergency care and more. Regions is part of the HealthPartners family of care. Additional information is available at

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    Vince Rivard