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What Is Robotic Heart Surgery?

Robotic heart surgery is a technique that uses small chest incisions and precise surgical tools that are controlled by a robot. It allows our heart surgeons to perform cardiac surgeries through less invasive means than techniques that use a large incision.

What to Expect During Surgery

  1. First, your surgeon makes a few 1- to 2-centimeter incisions (cuts) in the right side of your chest.
  2. Then your surgeon inserts small surgical tools and a 3D vision camera through the incisions.
  3. Your surgeon controls a surgical robot to operate precisely and efficiently throughout the entire procedure.

Robotic heart surgery techniques improve your surgeon’s visibility so they can operate even more precisely without compromising the quality of the procedure.

Minimally Invasive Robotic Heart Surgery Procedures

We can use the da Vinci robot for several minimally invasive cardiac surgeries:

Why Choose University of Utah Health?

U of U Health is the first center in the Mountain West region to use the da Vinci robot for cardiac surgery. We offer a full range of treatment options for multiple heart conditions. Our cardiovascular surgery experts work with multiple specialists to offer team-based treatment using every available technology.

Robotic surgery techniques promote excellent outcomes. Using the da Vinci robot for heart surgery dramatically reduces post-surgical complications such as infections, blood loss, and scarring. It involves shorter hospital stays and allows for a much faster return to normal day-to-day activities.

Learn More About Our Cardiothoracic Surgery Services

Benefits of Da Vinci Robotic Cardiac Surgery

Da Vinci robotic cardiac surgery uses smaller incisions that don't require cutting through your sternum. Using this technique, we won't need to spread your ribs to reach your heart—a part of surgery that can be very painful during recovery. There are many additional benefits of robotic heart surgery:

  • Fewer physical restrictions after surgery
  • Less pain
  • Quicker recovery
  • Shorter hospital stays
"Now I’m running, I move a lot, and I take my dogs out to the park all the time. I work full time at Amazon, lifting boxes nonstop. I can breathe well, and I can catch my breath. I feel so much better, and I’m really relieved."
Su Lee Robotic surgery patient

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Candidate Criteria for Robotic Heart Surgery

In general, candidates for traditional heart surgeries are also candidates for robotic procedures. If you have severe cases of the following conditions, you may not be a good candidate for robotic heart surgery:

However, every patient is different. Our team will strive to provide the least invasive and the best option for you.

How to Prepare for Surgery

Your surgeon will give you specific instructions to prepare for robotic heart surgery. Typically, your surgeon will first review your medical history to determine if you’re a candidate for the procedure. You may also have diagnostic tests such as blood tests, CT scans, or echocardiograms

Tell your surgeon about all medicines and supplements you take. You may need to stop taking certain medicines, such as blood thinners, for a short time before surgery. You’ll need to stop eating or drinking by midnight the night before surgery.

Robotic Heart Surgery Risks

Robotic heart surgery has a much lower complication rate than other types of heart surgery. The risks of robotic heart surgery are similar to the risks of other heart surgeries:

There is also a very small risk that complications during surgery will require a surgeon to switch to an open-chest approach. Our heart surgeons will use multiple strategies to significantly lower your risk of complications.

Robotic Heart Surgery Recovery

You can usually return home after around four days after robotic heart surgery. Hospital stays typically last a week for other types of heart surgeries.

You’ll also have fewer physical restrictions after robotic heart surgery. With traditional techniques, you’ll need to limit how much you use your arms for four weeks. With the robotic approach, you can return to your everyday activities within two weeks.

Robotic Heart Surgery Success Rate

Robotic heart surgery has excellent success rates when compared with any other approach. Robotic valve repair for degenerative mitral valve disease has a success rate of up to 99 percent. 

How to Schedule a Consultation with Our Heart Surgeons

If you need to see a heart surgeon, you’ll need to get a referral from your primary care provider or other specialist. Once you have a referral, you may call 801-585-6740 to make an appointment.

To refer a patient to our specialists, fill out our referral form or call 801-585-6740 to speak with a physician referral specialist.

Hear From Our Patients

After a stroke, Su Lee knew he needed help with his heart murmur. Heart surgeon experts and robotic technologies at University of Utah Health gave Lee a new lease on life.

Read Su's Story

Picture of patient Su Lee playing outside with his black dog