Robotic Heart Surgery


Vidant Medical Center surgeons use minimally invasive procedures, including robotic-assisted surgery, whenever it is appropriate to the patient's diagnosis and condition. Minimally invasive procedures offered here include mitral valve repair and replacement, maze atrial fibrillation ablation, aortic valve repair/replacement and coronary artery bypass surgery.

Robotic Mitral Valve Repair

Vidant Medical Center pioneered robotic-assisted heart surgery technology. In May 2000, Dr. Randolph Chitwood led a team that performed the nation's first total mitral valve surgery using robotic technology in the United States. Following early success with the technique, a robotics training center at East Carolina University was established in 2002.

With the da Vinci Surgical System, surgeons make three dime-sized incisions in the chest, through which they insert three robotic arms. One arm holds a tiny camera that projects three-dimensional images onto a monitor in front of the surgeon; the other two arms hold the pencil-sized instruments, which have tiny computerized mechanical "wrist" instrument tips designed to transmit the dexterity of the surgeon's forearm, wrist and fingers into the chest at the operative site.

Physicians and staff at the Cardiovascular Center at Vidant Medical Center have worked over the past several years to refine procedures and enhance patient comfort.

Maze Surgical Atrial Fibrillation Ablation

About 2 million Americans suffer from atrial fibrillation making it the most common irregular heart rhythm and the second most common cause of cardiac-related hospitalizations. During atrial fibrillation, abnormal electrical signals disrupt the heart's rhythm and cause the heart's upper chambers to quiver instead of contract normally. If left untreated, atrial fibrillation can lead to pooling or clotting of the blood within the upper chambers, increasing the risk of stroke.

The classical maze procedure required a breastbone-splitting incision and potential complications associated with open-chest surgery such as bleeding, infection, stroke and pneumonia kept this procedure from widespread use. With minimally invasive techniques, patients often avoid many complications such as long recovery and risk of infection often associated with open-heart techniques.

The minimally invasive maze procedure is performed using video-guided instruments and, when appropriate, using the da Vinci robot. During the procedure, a few small incisions are made between the ribs, through which surgeons position a tiny camera and a catheter for performing the ablation. This catheter directs cryo-freeze or microwave energy to precise areas in heart tissue to interrupt the abnormal circuits that cause irregular heartbeat.

The minimally invasive maze surgical procedure provides a permanent solution to atrial fibrillation. It is most effective early in the course of the disease.

To refer a patient for robotic surgery, please call the Vidant ReferDirect number, 800-816-7264.


Chitwood, Jr., W. Randolph, MD