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Robotic Heart Surgery at the Orlando Health Heart & Vascular Institute

May 02, 2014

We live in an exciting new era where medical treatment is rapidly changing and improving. With incredible advancements in technology over the last decade, we are treating illnesses that were fatal less than a century ago. A heart attack, for example, was nearly insurmountable thirty years ago—but today, the outcomes are far better for thousands of patients.

As a cardiologist, I am fortunate to be in the midst of these cutting-edge advancements. It is incredibly exciting to now have access to new technology that is helping to improve treatment options for patients with cardiovascular disease. As exciting as it is for me, I know patients are thankful for the progression in treatment as well.

A prime example of a recent medical advancement is the improvement in treatment for patients with coronary artery disease. Coronary artery disease is a widespread and life-threatening condition caused by the narrowing of the arteries due to plaque buildup. This buildup restricts blood flow in the arteries, which prevents the heart muscle from receiving the blood and oxygen it needs. Over time, this condition can lead to an irregular heart rhythm, heart failure or even a heart attack. Coronary artery disease is the most common form of heart disease and the leading cause of death in America.

Traditionally, the most common treatment for coronary artery disease is percutaneous coronary intervention, also known as angioplasty. This procedure involves using a balloon to physically open an artery blockage and help improve blood flow. During an angioplasty, cardiologists often use a stent, which is a small mesh tube, to prop open the artery and keep it open following the procedure. While nearly one million angioplasty procedures are performed in the United States each year, the procedure has remained largely unchanged for five decades.

Thankfully, at the Orlando Health Heart & Vascular Institute, we now have access to new technology that makes these procedures much safer for both patients and doctors. Using robotic-assisted technology, the revolutionary CorPath System allows cardiologists to perform angioplasty procedures with incredible precision and accuracy. Doctors have the ability to accurately measure blockages and precisely position stents, which could lead to fewer stent implants in patients in the future. Compared to traditional methods, the accuracy and precision of robotic heart surgery greatly improves the quality of care that we provide to our patients.

In order to advance and improve this revolutionary technology, Corindus, the manufacturer of the CorPath System, has started the PRECISION registry to closely monitor performance and patient outcomes. The Orlando Health Heart & Vascular Institute now has the distinction of being one of only six centers nationwide that has enrolled patients in the PRECISION registry. Our center is also the first in the state of Florida to have taken a step toward the future of cardiovascular treatment through the use of the CorPath System.

Not only is robotic heart surgery safer for patients, but it is also much safer for physicians as well. Despite incremental advances in technology, physicians and staff are still exposed to tremendous amounts of radiation due to the use of X-ray imaging systems during angioplasty procedures. Radiation exposure is a serious issue in catheterization labs, which is where cardiologists diagnose and treat many patients with heart conditions. Repeated exposure can have serious long-term effects, including cancer, cataracts and thyroid injury. In addition, the heavy, lead-lined protection equipment used during the procedure can result in indirect injuries and orthopedic problems like spine and joint damage.

By using robotic controls, cardiologists can now perform procedures away from the patient’s bedside while still in the same room. Seated in a radiation-protected cockpit, the physician uses a joystick to robotically advance catheters, angioplasty balloons and stents to clear the artery blockage and restore blood flow. As a result, this significantly decreases exposure to radiation and reduces the risk for serious health complications.

Robotic heart surgery is drastically changing the way we treat patients with coronary artery disease. It brings together robotic precision, improved views of anatomy and better control of balloon and stent placement, which creates better and safer outcomes for our patients. As robotic-assisted technologies advance further, we will continue to offer better treatment options as we work toward our goal of achieving the best possible outcomes for our patients.