Roger Suter never had a history of heart problems. But while he was at work delivering furniture, he began having chest pains. After his workday was done, Suter drove himself to a hospital emergency room and to his surprise, he was diagnosed with four blockages in three arteries leading to his heart.
After the diagnosis, he was transferred to the University of Maryland Medical Center to have an angiogram performed. His doctors decided that blockages in one of the arteries could be treated with balloon angioplasty and stents, but that the other two blocked arteries required surgery.
With the use of a surgical robot, Suter would be able to have multiple-vessel heart bypass surgery performed in a minimally invasive way with only three dime-sized incisions. Because robot-assisted surgery is done in a minimally invasive way, there are significant benefits for patients.
Those benefits include quicker recovery ? patients go home within only a few days of surgery and quickly return to normal activities ? as well as less pain and bleeding, and a reduced risk of infection.
The University of Maryland Medical Center was the first hospital in Maryland, Delaware, Washington D.C., and Northern Virginia to perform minimally invasive, beating heart, multiple-vessel coronary artery bypass surgery with the assistance of a surgical robot. The medical center acquired the most advanced robotic technology in 2006.
Bypass surgery is a new use for the robotic system, which has been used in recent years to perform prostate cancer surgery. Surgeons at the University of Maryland Medical Center are using the robotic system both for cardiac and prostate cancer procedures.
On September 27, 2006, the 58-year-old Pasadena, Maryland, man became one of the first patients to undergo a robot-assisted, multiple-vessel coronary artery bypass surgery at the University of Maryland Medical Center.
During the surgery, Dr. Robert Poston, formerly a cardiac surgeon at the University of Maryland Medical Center, removed two arteries (left and right internal mammary arteries) from their normal position in Suter?s chest and sewed them to his heart to bypass the two blocked coronary arteries. One of the arteries used in Suter?s bypass, the left internal mammary artery, is accessible with standard, minimally invasive laparoscopic techniques. But when surgeons need to perform two or more bypasses, as in Suter?s case, acquiring both the left and right internal mammary arteries is too complex for the standard laparoscopic techniques. That?s where the robot comes in.
The robot is ideally suited to reach the right internal mammary artery because it can extend the tools and camera nearly a foot away from their points of entry in the chest, without tremor or loss of flexibility. So in Suter?s case, he benefited because the surgeon was able to reach his right internal mammary artery with the help of the robot instead of having to undergo open heart surgery.
Because no large incision was needed, Suter made a quick recovery and was able to go home three days later, on October 1. The usual hospital stay after a traditional, ?open? heart bypass procedure is about six to seven days and it takes about one to two months at home until patients can feel well enough to resume their normal activities.
During his hospital stay, Suter said he felt no pain and was ambulatory after a couple of days. ?I got out of bed the next morning and I walked around floor. I didn?t need a walker by the second day.? Overall, he says, ?my recovery has been great; there have been no problems.?
Suter says the way he feels now compared to how he felt before surgery is like night and day. ?I feel so much better now. I have much more energy and I haven?t felt this good in a long time. I can sure tell the difference now.? In retrospect, he says, having the robot-assisted bypass surgery was ?a win-win situation all the way around.?
by Michelle W. Murray