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The High-Tech Heart: The Da Vinci Surgical System-Making Open Heart Surgery Less Invasive, Less Painful; Provides Quicker Recovery


Minimally invasive surgery, which involves smaller incisions, resulting in less pain and a faster recovery, has become standard for many types of procedures. But heart surgery is one of the last areas to be able to use these less invasive techniques. It requires the ability to operate deep inside the body, which wasn't possible with the older laparoscopic instrumentation and equipment.

Now, a new surgical system is paving the way for heart surgeons to make operations easier on patients. It's called the Da Vinci Surgical System. It was developed by Intuitive Surgical, Inc., which was established in 1995. Its founders used robotic surgery technology that had been developed at SRI International, previously known as Stanford Research Institute.

The FDA approved da Vinci in May 2001. Radical prostatectomies have been its most common application, but that has changed dramatically in recent years, as gynecologists, cardiac surgeons and others have learned to use the system in their own areas of specialty

More flexible instruments

Da Vinci is a robotic system that allows heart surgeons to operate deep inside the chest without making a large incision and without spreading the ribs. This minimizes pain for patients. Standard tools used in traditional laparoscopic surgery are straight instruments. Surgeons can move them up and down, but they can't rotate them or move them around corners. The Da Vinci system's instruments move like a surgeon's wrists, which provides much more flexibility and freedom to the surgeon.

Images excellent for surgical team

Surgeons who use minimally invasive techniques are able to see what's going on inside the body by viewing a computer screen. Other types of procedures provide images that are upside down and backwards, but the view with the Da Vinci system provides a true image that's magnified to the tenth power. Surgeons not only are able to get a more realistic view, but they're also able to see things they might not have been able to see in a traditional open heart procedure.

As hospitals around the country gradually acquire the Da Vinci system, and their surgical teams learn to apply it to their specialties, heart patients can expect, in the near future, to have cardiac surgery that will have incisions that are easier to recover from, less scarring, perhaps less time on a breathing tube and an improved experience overall.

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