Robotic heart surgery is an operation a surgeon does by controlling robotic arms that work through small incisions. Less pain and less time in the hospital make robotic heart surgery an attractive option, but there are negative aspects as well. Your provider can tell you if you’re a candidate for robotic cardiac surgery.
Robotic heart surgery is a type of minimally invasive heart surgery in which a surgeon controls surgical tools attached to thin robotic arms. The surgeon doesn’t open your chest in the way they do for standard open heart surgery.
Robotic cardiac surgery has changed the way surgeons perform certain heart operations. It allows them to perform certain types of complex heart surgeries with smaller incisions. Surgeons perform many robot-assisted mitral valve surgeries. The most common cardiac operations that surgeons perform with the aid of a surgical robot are:
Surgeons use a computer-enhanced robotic system that includes:
Your surgeon sits at a large console that looks similar to a video game. When they look into the machine, they see what the camera inside you sees. While the robotic arms are right next to you and over you, the surgeon isn’t. They control the machine’s robotic arms from the console in another part of the operating room, a few feet away from you. Other people from your surgical team are near you.
Robotic heart surgeries include:
Healthcare providers perform diagnostic tests to determine if you’re a candidate for robotic heart surgery.
Tests may include:
Your surgeon will review the results of these diagnostic tests to determine if you’re a candidate for robotic heart surgery. The type of treatment for your condition will depend on several factors, including:
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You can prepare for robotic heart surgery in these ways:
The surgeon is always in control during the surgery. The robotic arms can’t move on their own.
A surgeon will:
After robotic cardiac surgery:
Healthcare providers recommend taking your prescriptions and making lifestyle changes to maintain your heart health after surgery.
Lifestyle changes include:
Like other surgeries, robotic heart surgery has its pros and cons.
Compared with traditional surgery, the benefits of robotic heart surgery may include:
The cons of robotic heart surgery include:
Any surgery has risks related to:
Your healthcare provider will discuss your risks before surgery. Ask questions to make sure you understand all of the potential risks.
Most people can return to normal activities, drive and go back to work as soon as they feel up to it. This is usually within two to four weeks after surgery. You may need more time to recover from more complex surgeries.
Your provider will give you specific guidelines for your recovery and return to work, including specific instructions on activity and how to care for your incisions and general health after the surgery.
Depending on which robotic heart surgery you had, you may need to have regular echocardiograms.
Success rates vary by robotic procedure. Mitral valve repair rates are 93% and higher, with experienced centers reporting success rates approaching 100%.
Contact your healthcare provider if you have:
A note from Cleveland Clinic
It’s good to remember that your surgeon — and not a robot — controls the robotic arms during robotic heart surgery. Because performing robotic heart surgery has a big learning curve, you may want to choose a hospital that does a large volume of this type of operation. Hospitals that do a lot of robotic heart surgeries perform them more often than those that handle a small number of them. Doing a large volume of surgeries allows surgeons to develop their expertise.
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 04/13/2023.
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