Ask an Expert: Robotic-assisted cardiac surgery

Q. What procedures do you use robotic surgery for?

Answer from Dr. Jeanne Phillips, cardiologist and medical director of Providence Heart and Vascular Institute's Center for Advanced Heart Disease: 

We perform multiple operations with the robotic-assisted surgical system. We’re excited about what we’re seeing – robotic assisted surgery is less traumatic to the patient, involves smaller incisions, and helps patients recover and get back to work sooner.

Robotic technologies are approved by the FDA to be used in general or abdominal surgical procedures, and are most commonly used for gastro esophageal reflux and prostate surgeries. Robotic-assisted surgery is also approved for thoracic (chest) surgeries and for procedures to repair some cardiac conditions, including mitral valve prolapse and atrial septal defects.

We use it most commonly now to remove and biopsy lesions within the chest, especially removing the thymus gland (thymectomy). We’ve performed 15 robotic-assisted thymectomies in our Portland hospitals. We also have used the robotic system to harvest the chest-wall artery that’s used in coronary artery bypass grafting.

We’re just beginning a study involving the use of the robotic system in coronary bypass procedures. We envision additional studies in the future. We're also looking at using the robotic system for atrial fibrillation surgery. In addition, we're beginning a program to use the robotic system in a number of urologic procedures.