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KentuckyOne Health
Saint Joseph Heart Institute is only hospital in Central & Eastern KY to offer breakthrough heart procedure
New da Vinci robotic technology makes traditional open-chest heart surgery a closed-chest procedure, which means a quicker, less painful recovery for patients

Lexington, KY --- Saint Joseph Hospital is once again a trailblazer in heart care. Widely known as the “Heart Hospital,” it is now offering a remarkable new procedure through Saint Joseph Heart Institute that utilizes robotic technology to change the way heart surgery is performed—making open-chest surgery a closed-chest procedure, which means less pain, faster healing and a shorter hospital stay.

The traditional heart bypass, or other open-heart surgery, requires a 10-inch incision, a split in the breastbone and a retractor to separate the ribs. Using the da Vinci robotic technology at Saint Joseph Hospital, surgeons now typically just make three tiny incisions less than 1 cm, and the chest is not “cracked open” at all—making a once invasive procedure minimally invasive for eligible patients.

“This is the beginning of a whole new era in cardiac surgery,” said Dr. Michael Sekela, a veteran cardiothoracic surgeon who received highly specialized training in using the robotic-assisted technology. “Many patients experience tremendous anxiety about an open-chest surgery. Full recovery is slow and associated with pain due to division of the sternum (breastbone). The da Vinci technology allows heart patients to heal faster, have far fewer restrictions on activities, and become active much sooner.”

Thus far, Dr. Sekela has used the da Vinci technology to perform mitral valve procedures, removal of intracardiac tumors and coronary artery bypass procedures.

The three small incisions, each less than 1 cm, are tiny ports through which Dr. Sekela and fellow surgeons utilize the da Vinci system to perform the bypass, or other heart procedure. A tiny camera, or endoscope, is inserted in one opening and the other two openings provide access for surgical tools and the robot’s EndoWrist instruments. Instead of the surgeon holding the tools, the robot’s wrists hold them—providing a range of motion and dexterity that is equivalent to the human hand but that can operate inside the tiny ports.

The movements of the robot’s wrists are controlled by the surgeon who sits at a computer console which provides high-definition, full-color, magnified 3-D images of the surgical site made available by the endoscope. One of the most important built-in components of the technology is that it enhances the surgeon’s hand movements and renders them more precise with fewer tremors.

Saint Joseph Hospital currently operates two da Vinci robots and staffs an experienced surgical team fully trained for cardiac surgery procedures utilizing the robotic technology. In addition to heart surgery, the advanced da Vinci technology at Saint Joseph Hospital has offered less invasive options for prostate cancer treatment and gynecological surgery, as well as several other urologic and general surgical procedures, since August of 2007. In December 2009, the 500th da Vinci case was performed at Saint Joseph Hospital.

Visit Saint Joseph’s new Web site, Richmond to learn more about da Vinci heart surgery.

Saint Joseph Hospital is a member of Saint Joseph Health System, a 981-bed, eight-facility health care system that spans central and eastern Kentucky. Saint Joseph Heart Institute is headquartered in the Lexington, Saint Joseph Hospital facility. Saint Joseph Health System is a member of Catholic Health Initiatives, the nation’s second-largest Catholic health care system. Visit www.SaintJosephHealthSystem.org for further information.
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