Inova Offers Robotic-assisted Minimally Invasive Heart Bypass Surgery

Ramesh Singh, MD, is a cardiovascular surgeon at the Inova Heart and Vascular Institute. He is board-certified in cardiac and thoracic surgery and is the surgical director of Inova’s Mechanical Circulatory Support Program. He is also an Assistant Professor at the University of Virginia.

Recently a patient came to my office with a blockage in the vessels that supply blood to the heart. I recommended coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG), also called heart bypass surgery. During CABG, a surgeon takes healthy blood vessels from another part of the body and connects them above and below the blockage. This makes a new path for blood to flow. But it’s usually done by opening the chest and cutting through the breastbone, and my patient wasn’t interested the prolonged recovery.

The patient was caring for his wife, who had dementia, as well as his 90-year-old mother. It takes months to recover from open-heart surgery, and he had no one else to help. Fortunately, we had an alternative. Instead of opening his chest, I performed a new procedure known as robot-assisted CABG. This minimally invasive procedure allowed me to perform the bypass through tiny incisions. Five days after his operation, he was well enough to drive himself to my office for a check-up. 

Coronary Artery Bypass Grafting (CABG)

At the Inova Heart and Vascular Institute, more and more of our procedures are minimally invasive. Instead of the old method of open-heart surgery, these procedures use narrow tools inserted through very small incisions to treat all sorts of heart problems. We now have a variety of minimally invasive tools for replacing heart valves or repairing aneurysms. But for a long time, minimally invasive bypass surgery wasn’t an option.

About five years ago, I began offering minimally invasive CABG at Inova. Performing heart bypass this way is technically difficult and physically taxing. In fact, it’s so physically hard on surgeons that few are willing to perform the procedure. Robot-assisted CABG offers a better way.

The surgical robot offers us a clearer view of the patient’s anatomy, allowing for greater accuracy. That results in better outcomes for patients.

Compared to open-heart surgery, patients recover more easily from robotic CABG. They have less pain, less bleeding and a smaller risk of serious infections or rib fractures. And they recover in just days instead of months.

Who Can Get Robotic Heart Bypass Surgery?

Robot-assisted CABG is a great option, but it’s not for everyone. In general, we recommend it for patients who:

  • Need a bypass in a single artery (not two or more)
  • Have trouble walking, have had an amputation or use a wheelchair
  • Are older or have health problems that make open-heart surgery too risky
  • Lack social support or have work or obligations that prevent them from taking time for open-heart surgery

At Inova, our goal is to make sure we provide the right treatment for the right patient at the right time. If you need a bypass in more than one artery, traditional open-heart surgery may be your best option. But whenever a minimally invasive option is possible, we are happy to give patients that choice. 

Robot-assisted CABG is growing in popularity, but it’s still available at only a small number of heart centers in the U.S. As one of the nation’s top centers for heart bypass surgeries, the Inova Heart and Vascular Institute is proud to add this service to our offerings. Recently I heard from another former patient who called me from the golf course just a few weeks after his robot-assisted CABG. He was back to living and enjoying his life — a reminder of why we do this work, and why we are so committed to staying on top of the latest innovations in heart care.

Do you need surgical treatment or a second opinion for your heart condition? Learn more about Inova Cardiac Surgery Services or call 571-472-4600 to make an appointment.

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